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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Oral rehydration salts save lives in Tamil Nadu

© UNICEF India/2004
UNICEF volunteers demonstrate how to administer oral rehydration salts

TAMIL NADU, India, 7 January 2005 - After the tsunamis ripped apart families and homes in the Nagapattinam and other districts of Tamil Nadu,  UNICEF has been working to prevent outbreaks of diarrhoea among the thousands of now homeless children and their families.

UNICEF is providing and installing water storage tanks in the affected districts. In addition, UNICEF has procured packets of oral rehydration salts (ORS) and is distributing them among relief centres across Tamil Nadu in some of the worst affected areas including Cuddalore, Kanyakumari, Pondicherry and Nagapatinam districts. 

UNICEF workers along with a team of volunteers are travelling throughout the region in 40 vans, announcing their arrival on loudspeakers.

Outside Shakuntaladevi Ramaswami Kalyana Mandapam, once a reception hall for weddings and now a temorary home to some 300 people, the team demonstrates how to use the potentially life-saving ORS.

UNICEF's Geeta Athreya supervises the volunteers who mingle with mothers, grandmothers and children who are still reeling from the shock of the tsunamis that cost them their homes and their loved ones. Parents and grandparents hold onto their children, as if determined to protect them from further harm. They welcome the UNICEF workers.

Staff and volunteers explain that diarrhoea can break out in crowded, unsanitary conditions and advise everyone on the importance of washing hands with soap and water after defecation and before handling food. Then they do a hand washing demonstration and train community volunteers to prepare the ORS solution

One of the community volunteers is 60-year old Rajamma, the great-grandmother of Suvarnamughi, a 45-day-old infant. Rajamma’s granddaughter Meena has been told that she should use ORS to save her baby’s life. 

Rajamma talks to mothers and fathers in the shelter and shows them how to scrub their nails and wash their hands. She has prepared an ORS solution by herself using five tumblers of drinking water and offers the drink to those she thinks need it most.




7 January 2005: Tsunami survivors in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu receive oral rehydration salts and demonstrations on how to use them.

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