North Bihar Floods

Released on: August 30, 2008, 3:45 am

Press Release Author: Plan India

Industry: Non Profit

Press Release Summary: Plan India through its NGO partners is working in almost all
the 15 flood affected districts. In some districts we have long-term sponsorship
projects, while in other we have thematic initiatives on containing female feticide
and HIV.

Press Release Body: A sudden breach in the eastern embankment of the Kosi River in
North Bihar has resulted in the inundation of thousands of villages in 15 districts
- Muzaffarpur, Patna, Katihar, Nalanda, West Champaran, Khagaria Sheikhpura, Purnia,
Saran, Begusarai, Bhagalpur, Supaul, Saharsa, Madhepura and Araria..

This breach is huge and has resulted in the river changing its course, flowing
through areas that have not previously experienced major flooding. Millions of acres
of human habitation and farmlands are submerged in the river waters displacing
around 2.5 million people in 6 districts of the State.

In addition, more than 225,000 houses have been destroyed. To date, 55 deaths have
been reported, but this number is likely to rise. Given the enormity of the
humanitarian crisis, the Prime Minister of India has declared it as a National

For the last three to four days, the weather has been extremely hot, aggravating the
suffering of the displaced population, particularly for children, pregnant and
lactating women and the aged.

CNN-IBN, a prominent national media, reports of 20 children who have been trapped
without any support for nearly a week in their school building because of the sudden

Shelter: Most of the displaced people are living on the roads, bridges and railway
tracks (which are generally at a higher level) and other higher areas mostly without
any shelter and other basic needs.

Roads have been damaged and water and electricity supplies in the affected districts
have been seriously disrupted. Railway tracks have been submerged and essential
commodities, including food, are being transported by boat.

Those displaced by the flooding are not expected to be able to return to their homes
for another two or three months when the embankment is repaired and the river moves
back to its normal course. Until then, these people will need to stay in relief

Health: Essential medicines distributed by the Government of Bihar have reached only
some of the more accessible relief camps and other affected populations. Large parts
of the flood affected areas are still inaccessible because of the flowing water and
lack of boats. Also, there is a lack of doctors in many of these areas.

As the number of displaced continues to grow, relief camps may become overcrowded,
leading to the spread of communicable diseases.

Food and Nutrition: The state government is air dropping food packets in inundated
villages. In many relief camps, host populations, including youth groups, local NGOs
and trade associations, are distributing both cooked food and ready to eat meals.

Water and Sanitation: In most of the relief camps, drinking water is available
through hand pumps. However, additional pumps are needed because of the scale of the

But the relief camps hold only a fraction of the displaced people. Most people, who
are staying along river tributaries, or stranded on roads, railway tracks or on
rooftops are drinking potentially contaminated river water.

Hygiene conditions are generally very poor with an insufficient number of toilets,
resulting in open defecation. Cases of fever and diarrhoea are being reported. Given
the scorching heat, unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene conditions, cases may
soon increase.

Plan's presence in the affected Districts

Plan India through its NGO partners is working in almost all the 15 flood affected
districts. In some districts we have long-term sponsorship projects, while in other
we have thematic initiatives on containing female feticide and HIV.

In fact the in the 2 worst affected districts - Katihar and Araria - Plan in
partnership with National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), UNDP, and grassroots
NGOs have been implementing a Link Workers program to provide awareness, care and
support to HIV affected children and families.

Plan's Humanitarian Response

Plan in partnership with the Sphere network is in the process of making preliminary
assessments for relief. Also, through our NGO partners and a prominent Social Work
School we are making assessment of children's needs and vulnerabilities in worst
affected villages and areas.

Based on our experiences as also of our partner NGOs of supporting humanitarian
response from a child centered perspective, we will be seeking to focus our disaster
response in the aftermath of the floods at achieving two goals:

1. Children from the flood displaced families and communities are safe and protected
- Child protection is one of the major casualties during disasters. In the aftermath
of a disaster children get separated from their families, others are orphaned, and
for most children the safety net of the family and community gets weakened. Their
vulnerability is exploited by traffickers, child abusers, rapists and other
criminals. Hence the need for organizations, like Plan to work with the government
and civil society to ensure child protection. And in the process rebuild the
community and family child protection mechanisms.

2. Children in the flood displaced communities have access to safe drinking water
and sanitation and hence protected from disease and illnesses - Floods lead to a
situation where drinking water sources and the sanitation infrastructure get
significantly contaminated and damaged. This requires emergency interventions at two
levels - (a) to create alternative mechanisms for provisioning drinking water and
sanitation services; and (b) activities to restore the water sources and sanitation
infrastructure so that the health fallouts are minimized.

Since Plan and its partners are still in the process of assessing the situation the
final detailing of the response in terms of activities, areas and communities to be
reached will be developed later.

Web Site:

Contact Details: Plan India
E-12, Kailash Colony,
New Delhi - 110048
Tel: 91-11-46558484

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