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Cyclone Aila: A Situation Update

© © UNICEF/India/2009/Anil Gulat
Inhabitants of islands in Sunderbans in West Bengal, India collect what ever remains in their homes, following devastation by cyclone Aila
KOLKATA, India, 16 June 2009 – The emergency situation across parts of West Bengal remains grim with close to 195,000 people still living in 485 relief camps following cyclone Aila, which hit the state last month.

The cyclone, which was accompanied by heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides, has affected 18 out of 19 districts in the state and the situation is precarious in South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts of the Sunderbans area. Approximately 920,000 houses have been damaged, the majority of them in Sunderbans.

Distribution of relief aid is ongoing, but rescue efforts are hampered in the difficult-to-reach Sunderbans’ villages. The cyclone-hit region is expected to face additional and prolonged challenges as the damaged and destroyed embankments are unlikely to be repaired before the monsoons hit the state later this month.

People in the two districts are seeking shelter in other parts of the state and around the country. To date, 137 people have died and an estimated 6.7 million people have been affected by the cyclone in the state.

UNICEF Response

Upon request by the Government, UNICEF had quickly mobilised funds to deliver additional quantities of urgently required supplies to affected families.

UNICEF has moved an additional 230,000 ORS packets and 25,000 water jerry cans for the affected blocks of North and South 24 Parganas to cope with health issues which are likely to come up as the water recedes. Chemicals for water testing and disinfecting tube wells have been provided to the Public Health Engineering Department in the affected districts.

Apart from focusing its key interventions on the three most affected blocks of Sandeshkali 1, Sandeshkali 2 (North 24 Parganas) and Gosaba (South 24 Parganas), UNICEF will also provide support in Hingalgunj Block of North Parganas and Patharpratima Block of South 24 Parganas.

UNICEF experts have visited the most affected blocks of South & North 24 Parganas to assess child survival, education and protection needs and determine further action.

Facilities in the affected blocks are overwhelmed with a lack of human resources and guidelines. Disease surveillance is weak in facilities and in the medical camps, which will lead to difficulties in the rapid identification of outbreaks and infectious diseases.

The mission found acute diarrhoea was a major cause of morbidity and vaccination lags behind schedule. Lack of adequate food is a major problem in the area and children are already showing signs of moderate acute malnutrition.

With a severe lack of nutritional services and weak disease surveillance, the mission feared children could easily slip into severe acute malnutrition.

Availability of clean drinking water remains a challenge. Hand pumps are submerged, and water is unsafe for use in many places.

The education system has almost completely collapsed. Alternative learning spaces to focus on children in constructive activities is a must in the region, along with advocacy efforts to reopen schools as soon as possible.

 

 
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