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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

UNICEF supplies water to parched relief camps

© UNICEF India/2004/Das
Water tanks from UNICEF arrive at the relief camp in Nagapattinam
By Manju AB

NAGAPATTINAM, Tamil Nadu, India, 1 January 2005 - Two truckloads of water tanks provided by UNICEF were driven into the tsunami wrecked district of Nagapattinam, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Supplying clean drinking water to hundreds of women and children who are crowded in relief camps is a crucial task, as water sources have already been polluted by piles of garbage nearby.

District administration, along with help from municipal workers, has begun installing the fifteen tanks amongst relief camps. “Our daily supply of water was just 500 ml per person per day,” says Maheswari, a 25-year-old widow carrying her 2 years old child. “Suddenly, we get this tank full of water.”

© UNICEF India/2004/Das
Clean drinking water will keep these children away from waterborne diseases
In the days and weeks following the disaster, lack of clean water is emerging as one of the greatest health hazards. The problem has gotten worse when it became difficult for people to get water to clean themselves after going to the bathroom. Children have become susceptible to diarrhea and fever.

UNICEF staff members accelerated the efforts to get the tanks installed with the help of the Joint Secretary of Health, Supriya, and the Municipal Commissioner, N. Chakrapani. When the first big water tank arrived at the relief camp, the crowds went mad with joy. Women, children and men rushed to the tank as municipal workers filled the tank using a thick green pipe.

Rolling out the water tanks to remote area

© UNICEF India/2004/Das
Children and women rush to the water tank with joy
UNICEF water and sanitation teams stationed in the district of Nagapattinam have forged an alliance with the local Rotary club in Nagapattinam. Their goal is to cover all those affected, spread out over a large geographical area reaching far beyond the district. “Water is life,” said Water and Sanitation Office, Paul Deverill. “This partnership basically helps in leveraging resources and touching base with communities faster.”

An extensive network of Rotary volunteers - mostly engineering students, personnel of the rotary partner and NGOs - will transport another 108 water tanks to other camps.

Sustaining the intervention will be the third area of focus for UNICEF. Installing water tanks is only one part of the problem. The other significant part will be to see that water is supplied on regular schedule, so that the tanks do not go dry after the initial excitement. UNICEF is working closely with NGO partners to identify a contact person at the camps, to monitor the supplies and alert the municipal authorities.




2 January 2005:
Dan Thomas reports on UNICEF's global efforts to assist tsunami survivors

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27 December 2004:
UNICEF India’s Chief of Water, Environment and Sanitation programme describes the devastation on the ground outside of Chennai, India

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