Monday, September 01, 2008

Global community gives it a miss to colossal tragedy in flood-ravaged Bihar in India

With reports of assistance from other states in India and local social organisations pouring in, the international community barring few (and after passing of several days) seems non-committal in responding human tragedy of colossal proportions in flood-ravaged north Bihar. Government of India already declared it a national calamity. The number of deaths, according to some credible assessments, will surpass every estimate when water will recede.

Reports suggest that UNICEF, Action Aid (Action Aid pumps in 30 lacs INR), and Care have announced relief package. Britain announced that it would provide 150,000 pounds (about Rs 1.2 Crore) to help flood victims in Bihar. The funding will be used to supply up to 20 camps, which currently house 10,000 displaced families, with clean water, shelter and sanitation.

The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union (EU), announced that it was sending food aid and other relief material worth 1 million euro (around Rs.62 million) for the flood victims.

In India, UNICEF has conducted a rapid assessment of the situation in three of the worst affected districts, and has provided essential supplies to some 8,000 families. In Nepal, UNICEF has already provided relief items to over 10,000 people in temporary settlements and is seeking to reach 55,000 affected people in total. (Unicef website)

What is striking is that this entire aid announcement made after passing of crucial days. If the aid would have reached on time many people might have been evacuated and rehabilitated.

Kosi river which breached its embankment in Nepal submerged some villages there and has changed course and wreaked a havoc on the residents of North Bihar in India. Kosi, which always termed as India's 'river of sorrow' showed its new cruel face and took at least 2.5 million people in more than eight districts by surprise. By the time, people understood the magnitude of problem they were in danger.

For instance, one family who loaded their essential belongings on tractor and started to relocate on a safer place found marooned after some kilometers. The road ahead and behind washed away by the roiling waters. God knows what happened to them.

This calamity is bigger than tsunami. Loss of human lives might have been higher in the sea-surge but, the agony and torture for millions of people marooned or finding their way into cramped camps in Bihar are beyond imagination. Tsunami waves came, devastated and had gone but, these flood waters will remain there in hundreds of villages for months. The cruel winter is looming over the millions of displaced people.

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