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Emergency preparedness saves lives in monsoonal Bihar floods

© UNICEF/India/Rahi/2005
A relief camp for victims of flooding.

By Anupam Srivastava

BIHAR, INDIA, 9 Sept 2005: Chanjay, Ravi Ram and Lakhi Chand are children with much to be thankful for. As the Kamala Ravan River pours through their villages in its annual, monsoon-driven flooding, community leaders have quickly activated an emergency preparedness plan to prevent as much death and disease as possible.

Across Bihar, one of India’s poorest and least developed states, some 36 people have died in the flooding so far. Around 10,000 people from scores of surrounding villages have been forced off their land and are now living on a 10-km. embankment accessible only by water.
The make-shift camp has 60 tents provided by UNICEF, and more have been pre-positioned in case of more flooding. Water storage tanks, water purification tablets and latrines have helped avert diarrhea and other diseases.

The rains keep falling, but this time around, the villagers have tents, clean water, toilets and basic medicines -- all the elements missing in last year’s floods, which killed at least 520 people and affected millions.

The make-shift camp has 60 tents provided by UNICEF, and more have been pre-positioned in case of more flooding. Water storage tanks, water purification tablets and latrines have helped avert diarrhea and other diseases.

Digamber Prasad, who works with Samajik Chetna Kendra, UNICEF’s key
Partner in the area, says the joint early planning had helped prevent epidemics common to flooding. “Shelter and clean drinking water, apart from sanitation, have ensured that there is no outbreak of water-borne diseases, which is particularly important for children,” he said.

After last year’s floods in Bihar, UNICEF worked with local community leaders to develop a disaster preparedness plan. They identified the seven most vulnerable districts, pre-positioned supplies and trained community members and partners how to quickly respond to emergencies.

“Thank you,” says Ram Charit Paswan, a community elder. “It was our moment of crisis. We needed all the help in the world,” he says.

 

 

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