UNICEF volunteers making ORS for Badhia in Seeta's lap
Seeta recalls the day they had to move from their house in Kothia Village, Balasore District in Orissa with her six weeks old daughter Badhia.
The intensity of the floods had washed their house away and for the last one week they have been staying outside.
Badhia and her mother have taken shelter in a local primary school, drinking flood water.. With heavy rains in Orissa and neighbouring states, the Kotia villagers had watched the rising water level hoping this time they would not have to leave their homes. It was not to be. They eventually had to leave their homes, losing most of their belongings.
Incessant rains in the last fortnight in Orissa have resulted in heavy flooding in 12 districts having a total population of 1.5 million people. Approximately 100,000 have been displaced. The state government has responded quickly and the Chief Minister, after surveying the affected districts, declared a seven day relief package to the affected population. The packages consists of mainly of food stocks.
UNICEF and its partners are also working to supplement government’s efforts to provide basic sanitation, safe drinking water, shelter and health services.
Seeta knows too well the risk Badhia will continue to be under well past the floods. “Initially we were drinking the dirty water and Badhia had severe diarrhoea for three days,” she said. “I have heard that diarrhoea leads to complications if not treated on time.”
Luckily, UNICEF and partners had pre-positioned essential emergency stocks with government departments of Orissa. The stocks included ORS, water purification tablets, bleaching powder and family hygiene kits. UNICEF has also supplied shelter materials to 1,500 families.
With a UNICEF supplied ORS sachet in her hand, Seeta recounts, “in our helpless condition, our local ward member gave us these packets of white powder. He told us how to mix it with water and give it to Badhia. These packets saved my daughter’s life.”
The timeliness of the support is well stated by the Rural Water and Sanitation Executive Engineer, “Thanks to UNICEF for the essential supplies. Our teams have been distributing ORS, disinfecting tube wells, making provision for safe drinking water and planning against disease outbreak from day one even in remote and hard-to-access areas.”
PUR being demonstrated
In addition to the emergency supplies, UNICEF is now partnering with the district officials and local organizations to provide basic hygiene and sanitation messages to the families as they return to homes so that they can tackle high risks from waterborne diseases.
In Balasore, 200 youth volunteers have been trained and given pamphlets with messages on good hygiene practices to avoid water borne diseases.
“Overnight, in consultation with UNICEF, our team had mobilized youth from three local organizations and the National Youth Service Scheme from the affected blocks and we were ready with 200 volunteers” said the Executive Engineer, Rural Water and Sanitation Supply, Balasore.“ And in less than 24 hours, UNICEF and RWSS, were ready with the materials and were conducting the volunteers’ orientation. ”.
The UNICEF State Representative, Shadrack Omol emphasised the need for this community intervention. “The reported deaths from the flood water are 30. The challenge is to ensure that no more children die out of waterborne diseases having survived the floods. And it is possible if we have the right mix of response – making available simple interventions such as ORS and disinfecting tablets and providing right hygiene information.”
The response from the government has been supplemented with action from the civil society who has in the past one year formed an Inter Agency Group for coordinating a unified emergency response. This is an initiative that has been supported by UNICEF. Within 48 hours, the IAG group had met and those with local partners were already active in affected areas providing support to displaced people.
UNICEF, in partnership with UNDP and other UN agencies and partners, is actively engaged in assisting many families in similar situation as Badhia and her mother Seeta.