Flooding affects millions in Bangladesh, India and Nepal

Relentless rainfall, monsoon floods and landslides claim lives, destroy homes and ruin food stocks

By Sunir Pandey
Two girls use plastic sheets to hide from the rain in Nepal
21 August 2017

Millions of people across Bangladesh, India and Nepal have been affected by floods caused by monsoon rains. In Nepal, thousands of families have been forced to flee their homes to escape the floods that have claimed lives, destroyed homes and ruined food stocks. UNICEF is working with the government and partners to get help to those most in need.

SAPTARI, Nepal, 21 August 2017 – As the floodwaters receded, Asha Devi Raya, 30, came down from the roof of her house. She had spent the night up there along with her 28-day-old baby daughter, four other children, and her in-laws.

Relentless rainfall across much of Nepal has resulted in monsoon flooding and landslides. Twenty-seven of the country's 75 districts have been affected by the floods, affecting 160,293 families and displacing 51,244 families throughout the country. So far 123 lives have been lost, including 20 children.

For three days, Asha's family survived on handfuls of murai (puffed rice). Worryingly, Asha's baby was showing signs of weakness and rashes had appeared on her face.

"You have to make sure none of this filth gets to the baby," says Sunita Sulpe, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officer for UNICEF, referring to the sludge left behind by the flood, as she hands a hygiene kit to Asha.

The kit was one of more than 600 that UNICEF distributed in the district as part of its immediate response. Each kit contains two towels, soaps for washing and bathing, a comb, nail clipper, sanitary pads, sets of toothbrushes and a toothpaste, and a five metre rope that can be used as a clothesline.

A  mother in Nepal stands infront of her flood affected house holding her baby

Asha Devi Raya holds her 28-day-old baby daughter outside their flood-inundated home.

As the floodwaters recede, it has deposited sludge and, with it, contamination at everyone's doorstep. All across the flood-affected areas, the risk of disease outbreak is high.

"You might get infected with typhoid, jaundice, eczema, diarrhea, worm infection," says Ashok Jha, a UNICEF staff, explaining to locals in nearby Topa village how they should use the hygiene kit properly to avoid falling ill.

Topa was submerged under more than one metre of floodwater from the Khaando River for two days. Villagers spent Saturday and Sunday nights under makeshift tarpaulin tents on the raised roadside.

"All night I was kept awake by my baby daughter who kept crying for us to go home," says Sunita Devi Khang, 30, of Topa. "Now when I bring her home she keeps saying 'water' and urges me to take her away."

The flood waters swept away a sack of rice and a sack of wheat flour from her hut. Sunita's husband is in Kathmandu and they have not been able to make contact because the phones are dead. The flood has also damaged power lines and there has been no electricity for the last two days here.

A group of women have gathered around the relief team in Topa, some with their adolescent daughters in tow. Jha urges them to share items where possible, "If you don't need something from the kit for yourself, like the sanitary pads, give it to your neighbours and friends who need it."

UNICEF staff distribute hygiene kits to a flood affected community in Nepal

UNICEF staff Ashok Jha explains about the content of a hygiene kit after distribution in Topa village in Saptari District.

Rescue and relief efforts

While the weather has improved and the water is gradually receding, access to a number of villages in rural areas remains a challenge as bridges and culverts collapsed and roads are under water. Rescue and relief efforts involve boats and helicopters to reach stranded people.

Food, water and shelter have been identified as the immediate needs of those affected. UNICEF is responding in these districts providing hygiene kits, soaps, Aqua tablets, water treatment and disinfectant powders, mugs, buckets, tarpaulins, bed nets, blankets, child and adolescent kits.

(Nepal figures as of 17 August 2017)

Nepalese police reach a flood affected community by boat
UNICEF Nepal/2017/LKC

Nepalese police prepare to ferry dry food and drinking water on a raft to Fultekra Village in western Nepal. The village got cut off when the culvert along the road leading to it collapsed.


In northern and central Bangladesh, 3.9 million people have been directly affected by the flooding that has claimed 89 lives.

An estimated 1,000 schools are closed due to the flooding disrupting learning for children.

With UNICEF support, the government is providing 278,360 water purification tablets, 528 hygiene kits, 1,935 jerry cans and 425 kg of bleaching powder to approximately 4,250 flood affected people. 

(Bangladesh figures as of 17 August 2017)


Four states in northern India (Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal) have been extensively impacted by flooding, affecting over 18 million people, including 7.5 million children. Floods in the western states of Gujarat and Rajasthan have now started receding and state governments have launched statewide rehabilitation and recovery operations.

At the request of the Government, UNICEF is providing planning and coordination support in the two worst affected states of Bihar and Assam. Communication material provided by UNICEF has reached over 9.8 million people in Bihar with lifesaving information on such topics as safe drinking water and handwashing.