Saving lives in Balasore
Balasore, Orissa state, India, 12th July 2007
Mainu Hansda lives in the tribal colony at Dunda, a village with 900 people, one of the 1185 flood affected villages in Balasore district. She and her six children have taken shelter in the Primary School building at Dunda. Mainu watched the river swelling with continuous rains and at last when the flood waters rushed, she with her children left for the shelter. Her husband stayed back on the roof of their now collapsed hut watching for their possessions. Mainu is happy, she has survived the floods but the worst is yet to come. They are landless with 6 hungry mouths to feed and no immediate livelihood options.
The incessant and torrential rains started in the last week of June and have affected 12 districts in Orissa. Balasore is one of three worst affected districts. The rains have ceased since 7th July but the flood waters have not receded. There is a forecast of further rains in the coming days and a cause of concern.
The floods have impacted a total of 1.5 million population with almost 100,000 displaced. More than 50,000 hectares of crop area has been affected. The Chief Minister of the state has done an aerial survey of the affected districts and has declared a 7 day relief package. Air dropping of relief materials has started in the districts. The government has also mobilized Food stocks, stocks of essential medicines, water treatment and storage materials, shelter and other necessities.
As the water recedes, problems like Diarrhea, Water borne diseases are rising. Like Mainu and her children, there are numerous families surviving the emergency situation. UNICEF has stepped in with its pre-positioned life saving items of ORS, PUR sachets, Halazone tablets and Bleaching powder. As the Executive Engineer of Rural Water and Sanitation Supply gratefully observed “Thanks to UNICEF for the essential supplies. We used them for pre-positioning at the distribution points and that saved the day. Using them, our teams have been disinfecting tube wells, making provision for safe drinking water and planning against epidemics from Day one even in the hard to reach areas.”
UNICEF is now supplying essential shelter materials as per request from the Orissa government and also pre-position for the days to come as this is the start of the floods season in Orissa.
In a state where the Infant Mortality and child malnutrition rates are traditionally high, UNICEF is working with its partners to ensure that the impact of the floods emergency is reduced to a minimum. UNICEF is working with its partners to ensure that the children and women of the affected districts, almost 40% of the population have shelter, are protected from health and nutrition hazards, abuse and exploitation. UNICEF and other agencies conducted a rapid assessment which brought out many concerns, the chief being availability of safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation and boosting Immunization in the Flood affected areas.
Similar assessment has also been done by the Inter Agency Group (IAG) of NGOs and other disaster response networks. In collaboration with the IAG, other UN agencies and the government, UNICEF is working on a Unified Response Strategy in the severely affected Balasore district. UNICEF is committed to support the vulnerable women and children in such an emergency.