JULY 15, 2005
12:00 PM

Damien Personnaz, UNICEF media, Geneva, Tel: + 41 22 909 5716
Corinne Woods, UNICEF New Delhi, Tel: + 91 98 18 649 088


UNICEF Rushes Emergency Assistance to Flash Flood Victims in India

NEW DELHI / GENEVA - July 15 - Flash floods in several India states that started in early July continue to affect about 3.5 million children under the age of 18.

In total, the floods have affected more than 7.7 million people in 32 districts of Gujarat, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh States. The floods also have destroyed and damaged houses and standing crops in 11,000 villages.

To date, 152 people in Gujarat have lost their lives due to the floods while in Madhya Pradesh the loss of lives is reported as 62. The floods also displaced approximately 150,000 families --500,000 people – in Gujarat.

For survivors, the damage to roads and the submergence of public amenities in low lying areas have caused enormous hardship, especially to women and children. Lack of access to safe drinking water, caused in part by open-dug wells and hand pumps, has further exposed them to the high vulnerability of falling sick due to water-borne diseases.

Apart from the immediate problems of food and shelter, the floods have made the population vulnerable to various water-borne diseases, especially gastro-enteritis, diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid.

In July, UNICEF responded immediately through accelerated programme interventions in water & sanitation and by providing emergency relief supplies to protect the health of children and women in the relief camps. Within 24 hours of the beginning of the flood emergency, UNICEF rushed essential supplies to affected areas, including water containers, plastic mats, buckets, shovels, candles, match boxes, mosquito coils, candles and other items.

UNICEF also released US $ 200,000 from its current programmes to immediately support the procurement of essential supplies requested by the government.

UNICEF is now seeking US $ 2,784,950 to help rebuild the lives of children and women in the worst affected districts, especially in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.

UNICEF proposes to utilize the financial assistance to assist state government and district administration efforts in relief camps and the flood-affected villages. UNICEF interventions will ensure access to safe drinking water, essential medicine and healthcare for newborns and expectant mothers, including securing nutritional status among children in early childcare centres. The funds will also be used to restore schools in the affected areas.

In Madhya Pradesh, heavy flooding caused by torrential rainfall struck the eastern region -- and forced thousands to flee their homes. Children and families currently are still taking refuge in relief centres and temporary camps. Emergency supplies have already arrived on the scene.

Some of the worst flooding -- in Madhya Pradesh districts of Katni, Rewa, Sagar, Panna, Stana, Damoh and Chhatapur—have affected the lives of thousands.

Katni district, named after the river that flows through it, has virtually become an island surrounded by flood waters on all sides. And in Katni town more than 4,000 people, including 600 children less than five years of age, have been placed in temporary shelters. Roads are blocked, telecommunication systems have broken down, and electricity is unavailable in many places. In some areas exposed waste, spoiled food and animal carcasses are posing a threat of infection.

In Panna district, approximately 60,000 people have been affected, and more than 4,000 people are currently in relief centres and camps.

The Government of Madhya Pradesh has set up 159 relief camps providing temporary shelter for approximately 50,000 people.

In all flood-affected areas, an effort is being made to educate people at the camps about basic hygiene practices which are essential in emergency situations. UNICEF team members are providing information about cleanliness, sanitation, safe drinking water and the use of oral rehydration salts.

“As the water recedes it will be essential to prevent outbreaks of disease that can affect people, especially children. Hence issues like environmental sanitation and chlorination of water become very important,” said Tapas Datta, State Representative, UNICEF office for Madhya Pradesh.

Many of the region’s health centres are now under water, meaning that access to essential medicines and health care is far more difficult for the population. UNICEF’s rapid response team continues to repair and clean health centres as waters recede, dispose of animal carcasses, and support the overall restoration of basic health services.