Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

UNICEF begins building toilets in relief camps in India

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF India/2004
The toilets are ready for use
NAGARCOIL, India, 30 December 2004 - The Kanyakumari district administration and UNICEF are installing toilets in 19 of the relief camps where around 16,000 people displaced by this week’s tsunami are currently living.

The UNICEF team that has been in the southern district of Kanyakumari since the tsunami strike visited the camps with senior government officials. Around 80 masons are expected to start work on construction of sanitary toilets in the larger camps which are more overcrowded than others. These camps are housing a sizeable proportion of the displaced people, estimated at around 26,000 people in all.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF India/2004
UNICEF engineers inspecting the toilets installed
The overcrowding in the relief camps has created water and sanitation problems. Father S.C. Clatton, whose church has been turned into a relief camp, has four thousand people and five toilets. Five toilets of the adjoining school have also been opened.

"We can try our best to provide them with food and whatever shelter that is possible in these few rooms, but we have hardly any toilets," he said.

Where flooding was the worst local water supplies are contaminated and damaged.  Children are particularly vulnerable to waterborne diseases like malaria and cholera, and diarrhoea.

Although no infections have been reported so far, doctors and camp organisers are already discussing measures such as giving doses of preventable diseases to people, particularly children. Doctors have expressed their fear of epidemics breaking out due to overcrowding and lack of sanitation facilities.

"The need of sanitary toilets is commonly felt, and that is perhaps the reason why the government as well as camp organisers have readily agreed to have temporary toilets installed," said Dipak Roy, a water and sanitation professional and member of the UNICEF Kanyakumari team. “Digging of pits for installation of toilets has already started in some of the camps while UNICEF and the district administration are making efforts to contact other camps that are being run in the district.”

In addition, 50,000 kilos of bleaching powder has been requisitioned from the state capital, Chennai, which will be provided to the district administration for further distribution. UNICEF is also assessing the medium-term shelter needs of thousands of people who will have only broken houses once they decide to return.


 

 

Audio

27 December 2004:
UNICEF India’s Chief of Water, Environment and Sanitation programme describes the devastation on the ground outside of Chennai, India

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