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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

India: Water and sanitation are keys to recovery on Andaman and Nicobar Islands

© UNICEF India/2005/Bagla
Many children in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are still attending class in tents supplied by UNICEF.

By Priyanka Khanna

CAR NICOBAR, India, December 2005 – Car Nicobar, in India’s remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands, was devastated by the tsunami; 12 months later half of the island is still submerged. Water and sanitation has been a key part of the recovery effort.

“Our visits to relief camps showed that the drinking water and sanitation facilities were very poor in these areas,” said Subash Misra, UNICEF Programme Coordinator for the Islands. “With that started our water sanitation programme, beginning with construction of toilets.”

In the last 12 months UNICEF has built 8,500 latrines here and provided materials for 4,000 more.

© UNICEF India/2005/Bagla
Rainwater harvesting equipment provided by UNICEF in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where 300,000 people were affected by the tsunami.

Stagnant and contaminated water is particularly dangerous for children. Youngsters are especially vulnerable to diarrhoeal diseases, which spread easily in the conditions found in Andaman and Nicobar after the tsunami.

Clean drinking water falls from the sky almost every other day in the form of rain – it’s just a matter of harvesting it. UNICEF has provided the necessary equipment and is training the local community to store and filter the rain water.


Education also took a big hit from the tsunami: 110 schools were destroyed in Andaman and Nicobar by the waves, and many are still filled with debris. Many children continue to attend classes in tents supplied by UNICEF.

© UNICEF India/2005/Bagla
A UNICEF truck carries water tanks across Car Nicobar Island, which remains half submerged a year after the tsunami.

The organization has shipped in educational materials and helped train teachers to help children deal with the trauma of the experience. Teachers have also learned new methods, involving storytelling, drama, crafts and music, to make school more enjoyable.

UNICEF was the only humanitarian agency allowed to operate across the 572-island archipelago after the tsunami, and remains the administration’s main partner in recovery. The Deputy Commissioner of Car Nicobar Island, Vivek Porwal, says that what UNICEF has done in child sanitation, education and the promotion of hygienic behaviour is “one of the bright spots of the recovery process.”

Rachel Bonham Carter contributed to this story from New York.




UNICEF New York correspondent Rachel Bonham Carter reports on how water and sanitation have been key to the recovery effort in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. (Produced by Priyanka Khanna in India.)

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