ASSAM, 13 August 2004 – Life is not easy for people in the flood-devastated state of Assam. Hundreds of families continue to live in cramped quarters on embankments, even as the water levels have receded.
The government is providing basic services and support, including food, health care and hygiene facilities. The families, most of them women and children, have been trying to cope with the floods for over a month now.
Labenio Kolita, a local official, walked us through her ravaged village. “Even though the water level has receded, whatever is left of our homes is filled with knee deep silt and slush. When the floods hit this area, 190 families clambered onto this embankment for safety. Nearly 134 families had their houses completely washed out and have nowhere to go back to. We are really helpless."
“The children have been out of school for a month now and God only knows when the school will be open again,” said Labenio. The schools that were not damaged were used as shelters; they had to remain closed until the displaced families had been accommodated elsewhere. All communications systems were also down. Families had to walk a minimum of 3 km to use a phone in a nearby town.
|UNICEF continues to assist the affected families, through the water and sanitation teams. These teams distribute UNICEF provided oral rehydration salts (ORS), halogen tablets and ferric alum. They also set up temporary public toilets on the outskirts of v|
Health workers in the village told us that some of the children affected by the floods were severely malnourished, and some were suffering from fever, skin disease, or diarrhoea. The ORS sachets were saving lives. There was an urgent need for skin ointments, cough syrups, antacids and medication for hypertension.
In conversations with pregnant women, they told us that they did not want their children to be born homeless and on an embankment. Punita Das, a young mother with a one-month-old baby boy, said that her baby was born one day before the floods. She went into labour as the river water was rising. Luckily her husband somehow managed to get her to the district hospital. The baby was born severely underweight, at barely 2 kilograms. The villagers want to name him Pani Ram (water baby), but the mother has proudly named him Anupam, meaning ‘the one who is unique’!
UNICEF continues to assist the affected families, through the water and sanitation teams. Working with the government of Assam, UNICEF is also providing teaching and learning materials to schools that lost everything in the floods.