Oxfam responding to India floods

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 05 Sep 2008

International aid agency Oxfam said it was working as quickly as possible to deliver help to people hit hard by the devastating floods in Bihar, India but said much more was required to meet the needs of the more than 2.7 million people affected.
Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said the agency was providing emergency shelter, food, hygiene items, clean drinking water and safe sanitation but he said with 100,000 people remaining stranded, it was vital that the response was scaled up to avoid an outbreak of disease.
“These are the worst floods in the area in 50 years,” Mr Hewett said.
“A lack of clean water and sanitation in crowded camps for displaced people in the Indian state of Bihar is threatening the lives of thousands of women, men and children.
“More than one million people have sought refuge in over 150 relief camps after floods swept away their homes. Search and rescue operations are trying to reach thousands of women, men and children still stranded by floodwaters and urgently in need of relocation and assistance.
“Women and children are bearing the brunt of the disaster, whether huddled in cramped camps or exposed to heat and the rains under the open sky. Thousands of people are without safe water and are having to defecate in floodwaters. There is a serious risk of diseases breaking out,” he said.
“Hygiene and sanitation facilities are urgently needed to prevent the spread of a water-borne epidemic. More food and shelter is also needed immediately.”
The floods were caused when heavy rains led to a 2km-breach in the Bhimnagar barrage – designed to control floods – on the River Kosi near the India-Nepal border on 18 August. More rains are predicted by the meteorological department.
Mr Hewett said the scale of the floods meant that support would be needed over the coming months, not just weeks, to help rebuild in the areas hardest hit.
Oxfam is using its motorboats to rescue stranded men, women and children from Supaul, the worst affected district. Contingency stocks of tarpaulin shelter sheets, water purification kits, buckets and Oral Rehydration Sachets (ORS), kept in readiness in flood prone districts, have also been moved to provide preliminary support to the affected. Staffers from Oxfam and two local organisations, Bihar Sewa Samiti and Abhigyan Disha, as well as trained volunteers, are working round the clock in Supaul.
Mr Hewett said Oxfam was supporting more than 20,000 families in Basantpur and Pratapganj, two of the worst affected blocks of Supaul.
Donations can be made to Oxfam by going to www.oxfam.org.au or on +61 3 9289 9444
For more information please contact Louise Perry, Head of Media and External Relations at Oxfam Australia on 0414 456 015 or louisep@oxfam.org.au