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UNICEF makes a difference - water borne epidemics prevented in Anand, Gujarat
" Rampur village in Anand district of Gujarat was under five feet of water. UNICEF's timely assistance with essential supplies saved outbreak of diseases. "

Anand, known as the “milk capital” and seat of cooperative movement in India, was one of the worst affected districts of Gujarat in the recent floods.  Geographically located in the south of Gujarat, Anand is about 60 km from the state capital Ahmedabad.  In just four days of unprecedented heavy rains, the district recorded 80% of its annual rainfall, resulting in flood-like situation and paralyzing normal life.  All 365 villages and five municipality areas of Anand district were cut off from the outside world. So far 21 human lives have been lost and 1,000 animals have died.   

“All the Primary Health Centres were under water and all the medical officers and health workers were affected by the floods”, says Dr S C Vashishth, Chief District Health Officer (CDHO) of Anand.   Medical Officers of various Primary Health Centres (PHCs) were making frantic calls to the CDHO for immediate help. “However, we ourselves were under the siege of water and stranded in my office – with four other staff, without food and electricity”, said Dr Vashishth.  Recalling the gravity of the situation, Urmilaben Christian, District Public Health Nurse said that they had to spend four days in the office, surviving on bananas. 

Despite difficulties in moving out of their PHCs, the Medical Officers and para-medical staff continued to perform their duty at the risk of their lives in providing critical health services to people in the marooned villages.  “I asked the Sarpanch of Rampura village not to release drinking water from the overhead tank till further instructions.  Meanwhile, with the help of paramedical staff in my PHC, I chlorinated the village tank and only then the water was released for public use”, says Dr Rajesh Patel, Medical Officer Bakrol PHC which was submerged in five feet water.

“Till date, no outbreak of any epidemic of water-borne disease has been reported.    This has been made possible only because of the timely assistance provided by UNICEF in supplying chlorine tablets, ORS packets, bleaching powder and medicines”, says the CDHO.   As no trucks were available, the CDHO immediately hired State Transport Buses and sent the supplies received from UNICEF to the PHCs.  The CDHO and his team worked tirelessly to ensure prompt distribution of ORS packets and the chlorine tablets to the affected people.

Dr Rajesh Patel, Medical Officer Incharge of Bakrol PHC mentioned that despite a lurking fear of epidemics after heavy rains, no abnormal increase in cases of gastroenteritis or any other water-borne disease has been reported.  He further adds, “ORS packets and chlorine tablets supplied by UNICEF have been distributed house-to-house.  These have also been stored with anganwadi workers, panchayat members and social workers for immediate access.  Utilization is being monitored on a daily basis and stocks are being replenished immediately.  Fortunately, this time, there has been no shortage of these critical supplies.”   A relieved and satisfied Urmilaben, the District Public Health Nurse, expresses, “During the floods, only rain water was available for drinking purpose.  It is simply because of UNICEF chlorine goli (tablet)that we were able to avert an epidemic of gastroenteritis.”

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