|A doctor from the faith-based Art of Living Foundation, a UNICEF partner, examines a young patient in flood-affected Uttar Pradesh, India.|
By Prosun Sen
SILAUTA VILLAGE, Uttar Pradesh, India, 15 August 2007 – It is a wet August morning and Kishori, 4, is playing with her friends on a narrow, kilometre-long embankment.
This small stretch of elevated dry land has become her makeshift village ever since monsoon floods hit Bahraich District in Uttar Pradesh. The floods completely submerged Kishori’s village, Silauta, on 27 July and forced some 355 households and 2,200 people to move to the embankment, which is surrounded by water.
Kishori’s family has lost most of their belongings, but she is lucky not to have suffered from diarrhoea or other vector-borne diseases afflicting several of her friends – a direct result of the flood situation. While the state government and district authorities are doing their best to provide basic shelter, food and water to the villagers, it is a challenge to grapple with the health hazards at hand.
To lend support in the flood crisis, UNICEF sent immediate health relief to the worst-affected areas of Uttar Pradesh, including Silauta. With the help of its strong Social Mobilization Network, which normally works on polio eradication, UNICEF quickly set up a temporary health camp to serve the village.
Swift response to save lives
For this operation, UNICEF mobilized the active support of a range of partners – from voluntary organizations like the National Cadet Corps (NCC) to faith-based groups such as the Art of Living (AOL) Foundation – recruiting youth cadets and qualified doctors to render humanitarian assistance on the ground.
|Kishori, 4, a flood survivor, at the open-air health camp in Silauta village, Uttar Pradesh.|
“In such crisis, it is important to move swiftly, as many lives, especially young lives, are at stake. Given the difficult condition on the ground, this is not possible without a multi-partner approach to support the government’s effort,” said UNICEF State Representative Dr. Nimal Hettiaratchy, emphasizing the need for a joint approach to alleviate the suffering of flood-affected communities.
Armed with a generous stock of medicines – including antibiotics, anti-pyretics to treat fever, painkillers and oral rehydration salts to prevent diarrhoeal dehydration – two doctors from the AOL Foundation provided free on-site consultation to hundreds of villagers in need. They worked non-stop from morning until late afternoon, not breaking for lunch or even to refresh.
The tally of patients at the end of the day was 336, a fairly large proportion of whom were children suffering from a variety of ailments such as diarrhoea, fever, rashes and worm infection. The critical cases were given emergency medication and referred to the district hospital.
A mission to serve
Kanhaiya, a farmer from Silauta who lost all his land, had tears in his eyes when he told the physicians: “This is the first time that any doctor has set foot in our village. You have come like angels to save us in our hour of need.”
|Medicines are distributed to Uttar Pradesh flood victims by National Cadet Corps members and UNICEF Social Mobilization Network workers.|
The five NCC cadets, robust young people attired in smart uniforms and led by their supervisor, Lieutenant Verma, circulated among the displaced villagers and assisted in identifying cases needing medical attention, especially children. They also organized the long queues for the visiting doctors and helped in dispensing the prescribed medicines.
Braving the muck and drizzle, these youths seemed to be on a mission to serve, and they made a visible difference. “NCC’s motto is to serve society, and what better way than to help these poor people who are facing such a crisis due to floods?” said Lieutenant Verma.
Critical emergency supplies
“We would like to thank UNICEF for providing us with a platform to render humanitarian service to so many poor people in need,” T.K. Roy of the AOL Foundation added, noting that AOL will continue to support UNICEF with doctors and medical supplies in the flood relief operation.
In a major endeavour to help the flood-affected districts in Uttar Pradesh – three of which are badly hit – UNICEF has not only galvanized partners and voluntary organizations to provide humanitarian support but has also committed $1.2 million to provide critical emergency supplies, in consultation with the government. These supplies include tarpaulin sheets, chlorine tablets, bleaching powder and oral rehydration salts.
The relief work has begun and is expected to go on for several weeks, and perhaps months, for complete rehabilitation of the affected villages. Until then, little Kishori knows that the people in the blue UNICEF T-shirts are there to take care of her family and friends.