UNICEF’s response in Water and Sanitation Sector
In partnership with Government of Bihar
October 3, 2007: Till the end of September, the flood situation in Bihar remained grim, with 22 districts and more than 20 million people affected. There was no let-up in the flood situation as the swollen Bagmati, Kosi and Gandak rivers inundated fresh areas in five districts of West Champaran, Saharsa, Supaul, Sitamarhi and Sheohar. The official death toll climbed to 668.
Before the floods, UNICEF had pre-positioned emergency items for approximately 40,000 families spread over 1000 villages in seven districts namely Darbhanga, Madhubani, East Champaran, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur and Khagaria.
These items included plastic sheets, ORS sachets, halazone tablets for purifying water, temporary toilet kits, water storage tanks, family hygiene kits, bleaching powder, disposable delivery kits and other relief items. Because of the pre-positioning, affected villagers were able to better deal with the flood situation and its aftermath.
While forces of nature are not within our control, our own response always is. Drinking water and sanitation is always the first area of concern during floods.
So immediately when the floods struck, handpumps were checked and temporary handpumps & toilets installed in the camps. Tube wells were disinfected. Communities were trained on using halazone tablets to disinfect water in their homes.
With the help of front line workers of different departments and NGOs, simple hygiene practices like washing hands with soap and water were re-iterated.
In any disaster of this scale, the first requirement is always the supply element. UNICEF immediately sent in 16 trucks of relief materials to District Collectors, 13 trucks to Civil Surgeons of the districts and 13 trucks to UNICEF supported NGOs in 13 flood affected districts.
The relief materials included – 2,534,000 halazone tablets for purifying water; 2,016,000 Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) tablets especially meant for girls and women; 784,000 ORS sachets to prevent de-hydration; 26,145 tarpaulin sheets for making temporary shelters, 96,575 kgs. of bleaching powder for disinfecting tube wells, large quantities of candles, jerry cans and plastic mats for the displaced people in the camps. 8907 life straws were also air dropped/sent to districts. One Life straw can purify 700 litres of water.
UNICEF worked with the Public Health and Engineering Department in disinfecting 10,485 hand pumps using bleaching powder. Together they also constructed 1,850 new hand pumps with raised platforms in affected villages. 964 temporary hand pumps have been installed in relief camps. 417 toilets have been set up in relief camps.
In villages, in partnership with NGOs, UNICEF educated 33,848 families on hygiene practices in 609 villages. 10,624 hand pumps were disinfected and 564 hand pumps installed in affected villages. The process is ongoing.
13,937 families were provided temporary shelter in 168 camps. In 90 of these camps, 10,477 families were reached with hygiene messages. 338 hand pumps have been disinfected in Camps. An assessment on the use and satisfaction on usage of life straw to provide safe drinking water is also being conducted.
UNICEF also provided human resource support by positioning district Co-ordinators in the eight worst affected districts. These district Co-ordinators have been ensuring that the supplies reach the users, the people in camps are reminded about the linkage of use of safe water, practicing hand-washing and use of toilets.
Information is power, especially if it is to do with how to cope up with floods and optimally utilize the supplies provided. Literature on Do’s and Don’ts during floods was widely disseminated. Radio spots were developed by UNICEF on safe defecation, hand washing, ORS and use of Halazone tablets. They are being aired by the government, so that people can avoid falling sick, by following simple practices.
Do you know - What Floods did to Bihar?
No. of affected districts - 22
No. of affected blocks - 235