Mother and child stand in the rain as the South Asia floods hit India

Mother and child in India © Hanna Butler/IFRC

The worst monsoon floods in decades have claimed thousands of lives and continue to devastate communities across South Asia.

More than 41 million people across Nepal, India and Bangladesh have been affected. An area roughly the size of the UK is under water.

In Nepal, Kalawati Rishidevi stands facing the camera with temporary shelters behind her

Kalawati Rishidevi, © IFRC

“I was screaming ‘the flood is coming’ and we started running,” said Kalawati Rishidevi, a grandmother from Nepal.

“The flood carried us away. I handed my grandson to his mother and after that everybody started running, together with their loved ones.

“I went to search for my granddaughter. We found the bodies of the others, but we couldn’t find her.”

Nepal was already one of the world’s poorest countries

Sabnam Khatun and her children stand together in front of a large bag of Red Cross food in a temporary camp in Nepal

Sabnam Khatun and her children © IFRC

Many people rely on farming to make a living. They work in their own or other people’s fields and raise livestock for food and to sell.

But with the floods washing away homes, farms and businesses, some people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

“I couldn’t save anything but the children’s lives,” said Sabnam Khatun.

“Adults and children were crying all around. The box containing all our valuables was lost and our three goats and a calf were swept away.

“I have no one to help me and I have to support myself, and pay for the children’s food and schooling by going to work as a farm laborer.

“But I can’t earn much with that and I can’t expect extra support from my relatives because my father and mother have already passed away.”

A group of men wearing Nepal Red Cross shirts and hats stand together and one hands a large sack of food to a woman after the South Asia floods

Nepal Red Cross volunteers distributed food, © IFRC

The Nepal Red Cross has worked in the country for decades, helping communities prepare for disasters such as floods.

In some of the worst hit areas, trained volunteers used rafts made from local materials to rescue people cut off by flood waters.

They have also provided food to 42,000 people at temporary shelters and other essentials, such as tarpaulins and hygiene kits, to 185,000 people across the country.

Snakes in the water

In Bangladesh, Adere Begum looks at the camer holding a child in each arm

Adere Begum and her children © Corinne Ambler/IFRC

Adere Begum, a pregnant mother of two, spent six days camping with her children on a tiny island in the middle of Bangladesh’s Jamuna River.

“It’s natural for us, flooding,” she said. “But this time it was above knee level in the house.”

A staggering 750,000 homes in Bangladesh have been destroyed or damaged.

The family was protected only by plastic sheeting on the island. “The children were frightened of snakes in the water,” she said. “They were shouting, ‘snakes, snakes!.’”

The family lost some cattle that they were planning to sell during the recent Eid holiday.

“A lot of my animals died – ducks, chickens, goats and cows, all drowned and were washed away,” added Adere.

Help by boat

A woman carries a large bag of food through a crowd of people waiting for their distribution from the Bangladesh Red Crescent

Food distribution by the Bangladesh Red Crescent, © Corinne Ambler/IFRC

Walking barefoot down a narrow path, Adere collected a sack of food from our partners the Bangladesh Red Crescent.

Travelling by boat, the volunteers gave food parcels to 630 of the island’s most vulnerable people.

Each parcel contains enough to feed a family for a week with staples such as rice, lentils, semolina and cooking oil. People also receive clean drinking water.

In Bangladesh, Ayetun Begum sits looking into the camer with other people behind her

Ayetun Begum, © Corinne Ambler/IFRC

“We told each other that soon we would receive some help,” said Ayetun Begum. These floods are the worst that the 70-year-old widow can recall.

After water inundated her house, she and her family had to move to a relative’s home. During the six days of flooding, their food supply had started to run low.

“Today I am happy that the Bangladesh Red Crescent has distributed food,” she said.

Fields turned into lakes

Mohammed Yunus stands outside his flooded and damaged home

Mohammed Yunus © Hanna Butler/IFRC

The north-eastern Indian state of Bihar is now filled with lakes. But homes, crops and schools once stood in their place.

Like most people in his village, Mohammed Yunus earns his living through farming rice and jute. And, like most, he wonders what will happen next.

“This is the first time in my life that I have seen a flood like this,” he said.

“I wasn’t aware when the flood arrived. It came late at night. We had to leave the house with our eight children.

“Everything was left in the house and everything was washed away. We lost clothes, food, our water pump and things from the kitchen.”

Mohammed is one of 31 million people in India affected by the floods – that’s the equivalent of just under half the UK’s population.

Risks increase after the floods

A woman uses a stethoscope to listen to another woman's hear as they sit at a table surrounded by other people in India

Medical aid from the Indian Red Cross, © Hanna Butler/IFRC

Floodwater can quickly contaminate wells and other water sources. Without clean drinking water, disease can spread quickly.

The Indian Red Cross has already provided medical care to 600 people.

They have also given out 20,000 mosquito nets to protect people from disease carried by insects that breed in stagnant water.

For those without shelter, simple everyday tasks can become challenges.

In India, a destroyed house is surrounded by flood water

Ansari and Allbjar’s destroyed home © Hanna Butler/IFRC

Ansari and Allbjar, the couple who used to live in this house, now cook dinner on a fire among piles of roofing iron, collapsed walls and debris.

“That is where our house used to be,” Ansari said.

“We escaped when the flood came and we just took the baby. We are now staying with our relatives.

“We are hoping for help because we have nothing left. “We have no food, we have nothing.”