A team of 16 doctors from JNMC, AMU representing RDA and AMU students visited the flood hit area of seemanchal province in Bihar recently. The floods in Bihar have caused havoc as has never been seen in the state for the recent years – it is an unprecedented emergency. Just on the eve of India’s 71th Independence Day, a breach in the eastern embankment of the Kosi,Gandak, Mahananda river inundated surrounding areas affecting nearly 13 million people spread across 20 of its 38 districts leaving lakhs of people homeless.
The contributions from various individual donors, RDA and NGOs like EFFORT AND DRUGSOCIETY who had donated to AMU STUDENTS and RDA for such emergencies, have been a major help. From collecting food to medicines, residents arranged several essential items to be delivered to thousands of flood-affected families.
RDA and university students have sent a team of 16 doctors in all 4 affected districts of Araria , Kishanganj , Purnea & Katihar. Team began relief work with the help and coordination of local communities members and Doctors organised health camp in various rural remote areas of all 4 districts, In addition distributed kits containing mosquito nets, mosquito repellent creams, soap and other hygiene material to the affected people. The prompt supply of water purification tablets and bleaching powder is helping to make water potable. Thousand packets of Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) were distributed helping in preventing deaths due to diarrhoeal dehydration, especially amongst infants & children.
Dr Muhammad Shaigan Shaikh, one of the doctor in Purnea camp explained that “Children and pregnant and lactating women are the worst sufferers and absence of proper shelter is making their lives more difficult, with continued heavy rainy weather conditions further adding to their woes. But much more needs to be done. 4-5 districts have been badly hit and million people displaced by the floods are not expected to return to their homes for another two to three months until the embankment is repaired and the river moves back to its normal course. Till then, these people will need to stay in relief camps where there are insufficient toilets resulting in open defecation and cases of fever, cholera, malaria, dengue and diarrhea being regularly reported. Given the unfavourable climate looming, unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene conditions, these cases are expected to increase”.
“What they lacked was adequate medical facilities. The most visible ailments at the relief camps were fungal infection, water related diseases, cough & cold accompanying diarrhoea and as Rainy season sets in, increase in these cases may further increase such cases” said Dr Sk Rameez Reza, member of RDA camp at Kishanganj.
“At this point in the time of heavy downpours, we are taking adequate preventive measure to ensure malaria, dengue doesn’t assume epidemic proportions” said Dr Deepak Aggarwal vice president, RDA.
Ever since heavy floods lashed the area and resulted in heavy loss of lives, volunteers of the organization have set up relief-camps in Baisi, Paithantola, Gerua, Karimganj, Rangamatia, Tolly Chowk, MNREGA Bhawan, and Peepalhaat. Volunteers trekked and reached out to remotest of villages like Baisa to provide relief material, food, medical-aid and trauma relief to the more than 2000 inhabitants in distress.
Dr Mohd Hanzalah of Purnea team told that “Our team tirelessly worked day and night to provide urgent assistance for flood survivors to cope. The pressing need at this moment is to provide Food, Clean drinking water, Hygiene kits, Shelter to protect people from extreme weather and other Non-Food items like tarpaulins, blankets, ground sheets, and prevents contamination of water, mosquito nets and water purification chlorine tablets with other essential materials”.
Road linkages and the supply of water and electricity in the affected districts has been totally cut off by the deluge. Railway tracks at several places have been submerged under deep water, and the hardships do not end there. There is shortage of food, doctors and medicine. Due to overcrowding in relief camps, the possibility of spread of communicable diseases is a looming threat. People staying along river tributaries are drinking potentially contaminated river water. Although drinking water is available through hand pumps in most of the relief camps, there is an urgency to install more pumps to cater to the scale of the crisis.
Dr Nawed of Araria team said “The situation is still grim, but some relief has already reached the worst affected areas. Horrific disasters like this not only act as a wake up call that there is an urgent need to once again balance the ecosystem, but also bring people closer and test the courage of the country to stand tall and united whenever the need arise, he added that ”government response was inadequate”, accusing authorities of not acting quick enough. “There could have been some warning to the people when the water left Nepal [in the north] before it reached Araria. Evacuation could have been carried out”.
Much of the relief and rehabilitation will need the continued generosity of the donor community. Together we will work to ensure that not only are precious lives saved but also brought back to normalcy.
“we are deeply concerned with those in Seemanchal area and surrounding area who are stranded and in need immediate assistance, people need help and we did what we could like we have been doing it previously in Rishikesh ,kashmir and muzaffarnagar crisis” said Dr Abdullah Azmi RDA president.