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India: UNICEF provides mobile medical teams to flood-hit Mumbai

© UNICEF India/2005/Bagla
Nine-year-old Pratimesh Shirke is treated at a mobile medical camp in Mumbai.

By Pallava Bagla

MUMBAI, India, 5 August 2005 – Nine-year-old Pratimesh Shirke was lucky to escape when his home was flooded by up to three metres of water. While fleeing from the floods he cut his temple, a relatively minor wound but one that could easily become infected if not treated properly.

His father Sampat Shirke also cut his hand as he pulled his son up to the roof of their one-room tenement in Kalina suburb, a low-lying district of Mumbai.

Happy to be alive, both father and son were treated at the Ganesh Nagar mobile medical clinic set up by UNICEF and the Society for Nutrition Education and Health Action (SNEHA) to take care of the medical needs of the most vulnerable survivors.

© UNICEF India/2005/Bagla
Residents of flood-affected districts wait to receive treatment and relief supplies.

“The situation is quite grim and outbreaks of epidemics following this heavy flooding in congested urban areas cannot be ruled out since these are still early days,” said Dr. Baya Kishore, UNICEF Project Officer for health and nutrition at the mobile medical clinic. 

Unprecedented monsoon rains on July 27 flooded many residential areas of Mumbai and other low-lying areas of Maharashtra state. More than 1,000 people are reported to have died in the floods and thousands more had to be evacuated from low-lying areas.

UNICEF emergency relief efforts underway

As part of its emergency relief efforts, UNICEF has provided one million chlorine tablets to disinfect drinking water, which were rapidly distributed among the affected population in an effort to contain the outbreak of waterborne diseases.

© UNICEF India/2005/Bagla
UNICEF provides life saving medicines to those affected by the flood.

On request from the government, 300,000 sachets of the oral rehydration solution (ORS) were also provided so that deaths due to diarrhoeal diseases could be minimized. In addition, 5,000 bottles of intra-venous fluid (IV Ringer Lactate) are being flown in from the UNICEF Supply Division in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Despite the standing water and huge piles of garbage, no outbreaks of diseases have been reported. Public health officials are concerned about the potential spread of diseases like typhoid, influenza, cholera, leptospirosis and infective diarrhoea.  

UNICEF has also set up a 24-hour telephone helpline and a co-ordination hub to help facilitate relief efforts.

Dr. Armida Fernandez, a child specialist and Trustee of SNEHA commended the creation of the facilitation centre.  “Medicines and timely care are urgently required to meet the needs of women and children who have suffered immensely in the floods”, said Dr. Fernandez.




5 August 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on UNICEF relief activities in Mumbai in  the aftermath of  flooding that followed the heaviest rains on record.

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