Bihar, 2 September 2008 : According to government estimates, nearly 20 million people nationwide have been affected by floods this year and more than 1 million houses have been damaged. As the monsoon season is still ongoing, these figures can be expected to rise in the coming days and weeks.
The humanitarian situation caused by the floods in northern Bihar continues to be very precarious and there is a serious risk of disease outbreaks due to the poor environmental conditions in which many people are living. There has been a massive displacement of people in the five most affected northern districts of the state as people have fled the flood waters or have been evacuated from marooned areas. The number of affected people in Bihar has risen to 4 million in 16 districts and nearly 315,000 houses in the state have been badly damaged.
According to the latest government data 293,500 displaced people have sought shelter in 350 relief camps in Bihar since a long stretch of the embankment of the Kosi River broke on 18 August. However, it is likely that thousands more have been displaced but have not reached these camps. Although flood water levels in the worst hit areas are now showing a receding trend, there is still a danger that the waters may rise again. Many of those displaced by the floods are not expected to be able to return to their homes for 6-8 months.
UNICEF India Country Representative Karin Hulshof visited the Bihar state capital of Patna on 5 September 2008. She met with the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar, and reaffirmed UNICEF’s commitment to work with the Government and other partners to provide relief to those affected by the floods and especially to the most vulnerable women and children.
The Government of Bihar has completed search and rescue operations with the support of the Indian Defence Forces. Over 1 million people have been evacuated.
The Government has begun setting up large-scale camps in a number of locations, each expected to provide shelter to more than 5,000 people. These camps are designed to be semi-permanent in nature. In all such camps, the Government plans to provide water, sanitation facilities, health care and child care facilities.
177 medical teams have been deployed and 341 health centres have been opened in the flood affected areas of the state. The health department has undertaken a massive vaccination drive against contagious viral diseases and doctors have been redeployed from other parts of the state.
While most of the official camps are in school buildings where water and sanitation facilities are in place, more than 600 additional hand-pumps have been installed and 1,840 toilets have been constructed.
UNICEF is working closely with Government and other partners to provide a focused humanitarian response aimed primarily at 125,000 people in the five worst affected districts and with a special emphasis on interventions in health, nutrition, water & sanitation and behaviour change communication. Child protection, education and HIV/AIDS interventions are also being rolled out.
In consultation with district administrations, 32 large-scale camps incorporating UNICEF interventions have been finalized and a multi-sectoral rapid assessment mission to the three worst affected districts was completed on 5 September 2008.
UNICEF’s support includes the setting up of comprehensive disease surveillance and containment plans for early detection and prevention of disease outbreaks.
UNICEF is providing supplementary immunization activities in co-coordination with the Government, including immunization against measles and the administration of Oral Polio Vaccine and Vitamin A supplements.
The Government of Bihar and UNICEF are also working together to provide essential maternal health services in the camps, setting up maternity tents that contain basic midwifery kits and that allow for safe and dignified deliveries.
For more information, please contact:
Angela Walker, Chief of Communication, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-181-06093, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Geetanjali Master, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-181-05861, E-mail: email@example.com
Alistair Gretarsson, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-715-35586, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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