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Preparation and quick action save flood victims in Orissa

UNICEF Image: India, Orissa, flood
© UNICEF India/2007/ Verma
Six-week-old Badhia, held by her mother, receives life-saving oral rehydration salts from a UNICEF volunteer.

By Ces Adorna

ORISSA, India, 18 July 2007 – Seeta and six-week-old daughter Badhia are among the many families who recently lost their homes after incessant rains resulted in heavy flooding in Orissa and neighbouring states. For a week, Seeta and Badhia lived outside and drank floodwater before finally taking shelter in a local primary school.

“Initially we were drinking the dirty water and Badhia had severe diarrhoea for three days,” said Seeta. “I have heard that diarrhoea leads to complications if not treated on time.”

There are 30 reported deaths from the floods themselves, while approximately 100,000 have been forced to flee their homes. It is vitally important to ensure that displaced families and children have proper sanitation.

UNICEF’s Representative in Orissa, Shadrack Omol, emphasized the need for community intervention in the aftermath of the flooding. “The challenge is to ensure that no more children die from waterborne diseases after having survived the floods,” said Mr. Omol. To assist in this effort, 200 youth volunteers have been trained and given information pamphlets on safe water and sanitation.

Overnight mobilization

The state government responded quickly to the situation by sending a seven-day relief package to the affected population. UNICEF and its partners are lending support to ongoing government efforts to provide basic sanitation, safe drinking water and health services. They have also supplied shelter materials to 1,500 families.

 “Our teams have been distributing ORS [oral rehydration salts], disinfecting wells, making provision for safe drinking water and planning against disease outbreak from day one, even in remote and hard-to-access areas,” said the executive engineer of the Rural Water and Sanitation Supply (RWSS) in Orissa. “In less than 24 hours, UNICEF and the RWSS were ready.”

The rapid response was possible in part because UNICEF and its partners had pre-positioned essential emergency stocks of ORS, water-purification tablets, bleaching powder, family hygiene kits and other relief supplies.

In partnership with UN Development Programme and other UN agencies and partners, UNICEF remains actively engaged in assisting those who have been affected by the rains. “In our helpless condition, our local ward member gave us these packets of white powder,” Seeta said of the rehydration salts she was given to treat her child’s diarrhoeal dehydration. “These packets saved my daughter’s life,” she added.



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