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MCC provides flood relief in India

Tim Shenk
September 18, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is providing $50,000 to Mennonite Christian Service Fellowship of India (MCSFI) to distribute food and other aid to about 18,000 people affected by flooding in the Indian state of Bihar.

An estimated 3 million people have fled their homes in Bihar since mid-August because of flooding along the Kosi river, which runs into India from Nepal. Many displaced people are living in camps until the floodwaters recede.

The humanitarian needs created by the flooding are enormous, according to the Rev. Raghu Murmu, chairman of a Brethren in Christ church conference in Bihar.

"There is no shelter, no food," Murmu said. "The situation is so serious – no one can think what can be done, because many, many people are like that."

Since Sept. 9, MCSFI has organized volunteers from India's Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches to distribute food to about 1,000 displaced families, according to the Rev. Emmanuel Minj, MCSFI's executive director.

With financial support from MCC, MCSFI is planning to distribute nearly a month's supply of rice and lentils to 5,000 families, as well as salt, soap, candles and matches.

Murmu and his wife and 20-year-old daughter were among those displaced by the flooding. The three fled on a motorbike when the waters rose 3 feet deep inside their house in the small city of Madhepura. Others fled on foot or by boat.

"Many people died when they were just running here and there," Murmu said.

Murmu's family took shelter at a hospital compound about 12 miles away. Murmu later returned to Madhepura with a group of Brethren in Christ volunteers to distribute food from MCSFI. They also helped to collect the corpses of flood victims, Murmu said.

No official estimates of the death toll have been released, but the devastation of the flood is evident as the waters recede.

"Many villages were totally washed away and there was nothing left," Murmu said. "One cannot say there was a village here."

The majority of people affected by flooding in Bihar are Hindu, and a minority are Muslim, according to Minj. In addition, about 8,000 members of Brethren in Christ churches live in the affected districts.

MCSFI, which is a relief and development organization of nine Indian church conferences, is distributing aid to people in the disaster area on the basis of need, regardless of religion, Minj said.

MCC is accepting financial contributions to respond to flooding and other emergencies in India. Contributions should be designated "India emergency assistance" and may be made to any MCC office or online at mcc.org/donate.