Four-year old Kishori is camera shy!
By Prosun Sen
Silauta Village, Bahraich District, Uttar Pradesh, INDIA:
It is a wet August morning and four year old Kishori is playing with her friends on a narrow stretch of an elevated embankment. This kilometer long embankment has become her makeshift home ever since the floods hit Bahraich, a district in Uttar Pradesh. The floods completely submerged her village, Silauta, on 27 July and forced around 355 households and 2,200 people to move as refugees to this small stretch of dry land, with water surrounding them on all the sides.
Kishori’s family has lost most of their belongings, yet she is lucky not to have suffered from diarrhea or other vector-borne diseases afflicting several of her friends, a natural fallout of the flood situation. While the state government and district authorities are doing their best to provide basic shelter, food and water to the villagers, it is a challenge to grapple with the health hazards at hand.
To lend support in this crisis, UNICEF quickly swung into action to provide immediate health relief to the worst affected flood-hit areas in Uttar Pradesh, including Kishori’s village. With the help of its strong SMNet (Social Mobilization Network) that works for polio eradication, UNICEF quickly set up a temporary health camp to provide immediate basic health services to the village.
For this operation, UNICEF mobilized the active support of a range of partners – from voluntary organizations like the National Cadet Corps (NCC), to faith-based ones like the Art of Living (AOL) Foundation – to provide youth cadets and qualified doctors to render humanitarian assistance on the ground.
“In such a crisis, it is important to move swiftly as many lives - especially young lives -are at stake. Given the difficult conditions on the ground, this is not possible without a multi-partner approach to support the government’s efforts,” said UNICEF State Representative Dr Nimal Hettiaratchy, emphasizing the need of a joint approach to address the problems of the flood-affected.
A view of the open air health camp.
Armed with a generous stock of medicines including antibiotics, anti-pyretics, painkillers and ORS, courtesy AOL Foundation, the two doctors from AOL provided free on-site consultation to hundreds of villagers continuously for 8-10 hours without a break.
The patients tally at the end of the day was 336, a fairly large proportion of which were children suffering from a variety of ailments – from diarrhea and fever to rash and worm-infection. The critical cases were given emergency medication and referred to the district hospital.
Kanhaiya, a farmer of Silauta who lost all his land had tears in his eyes when he said, “This is the first time that any doctor has set foot in our village; you have come like angels to save us in our hour of need.”
“NCC’s motto is to serve society, and what better way than to help these poor people who are facing such a crisis due to floods,” said Lieutenant Verma.
T K Roy of AOL Foundation commented, “We would like to thank UNICEF for providing us with a platform to render humanitarian service to so many poor people in need,” adding that AOL will continue to support UNICEF with doctors and medical supplies in the flood relief operation.
In a major endeavour to help the flood-affected districts in Uttar Pradesh, of which three are badly hit, UNICEF has not only galvanized partners and voluntary organizations to provide humanitarian support but has also committed $1.2 million to provide critical supplies that include tarpaulin sheets, chlorine tablets, bleaching powder and ORS, in consultation with the government.
The relief work has begun and is expected to go on for several weeks, maybe months, for complete rehabilitation of the affected villages. Till then, little Kishori knows that there are some people in blue (UNICEF) t-shirts who are there to take care of her family and friends.