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06 September, 2008

Appeal: AID INDIA and Pratham (Bihar floods)

Email forwarded by Priyanka Joseph.

Editor's note: 1 lakh = 100,000


Bihar has been hit by a terrible flood. It is one of the worst disasters to strike the country.

It is worse than the Tsunami, worse than the Gujarat Earthquake.

Several million people have been affected. Entire districts - villages and towns - have been washed away. The number of people dead is not even known. There are over 6 lakh people living in 200 relief camps. In Saharsa district alone there are 2 Lakh people in 68 relief camps. Similar numbers are living in camps in Madhepura, Supaul, Araria, Purnia and Katihar districts. And many more (those who are better off and have relatives and friends outside) have fled these districts.

This is NOT the usual Bihar flooding. Usually the Kosi river overflows its banks and floods the villages nearby. The people in these villages are prepared for it.

We are calling it "Flood" - because we don't know what else to call it. What's happening now is not a river overflowing - it is the result of a river suddenly changing course.

This year, the Kosi completely changed course - sweeping away several districts. Thousands of villages that had never experienced flooding before are now destroyed - submerged in water. The people living there were completely taken by surprise. Many have died. Others have lost everything - they are without clothes, food, homes, money.

The scale of the disaster is much bigger than the Tsunami. But because it is Bihar and people think this is like the usual annual flooding, there has been very little coverage of the flooding and very little support pouring in for relief. There is an urgent need to inform people about the nature of this disaster and to mobilize support.

For a week now, AID INDIA's Bihar team has been on the field organizing rescue and relief efforts in the affected districts. So far we have been able to organize some rescue operations and have provided food, milk for children, and medical support for children in several camps. But this is not enough - the scale of the disaster is very large and the need is a lot more. Pratham teams in Bihar have also started working with us and we will now be scaling up the relief efforts significantly.

After the initial shock, the government has been taking a lot of steps to organize rescue and relief operations. The army has rescued people from most of the places. The immediate focus needs to be on food, clothing and health needs of the people in relief camps. Some food is being provided at the camps - but there is a severe shortage and lot of rioting to get at the food. Children are the most affected.

Our immediate focus is on children - there are about 2 lakh children in all the camps. Milk, biscuits and food for children is the first priority now. We are trying to ensure that milk and food reaches all the children in all the relief camps.

The second need is clothes. Most people left their homes with what they were wearing. We need children's clothes, saris for women, undergarments, lungis and lots of blankets. Disease outbreaks are becoming a serious threat and we need medicines.

After the immediate phase, the need will be to focus on health, education, shelter and livelihood needs. But at present, given the scale of the problem, getting past the immediate relief and survival needs are the most critical issues to address.

AID INDIA and Pratham field teams need a lot of support at this time. We need:

1. Funds:
You can donate online at http://www.eurekachild.org/biharflood
or you can send a check payable to AID INDIA (mention Bihar Flood Relief) to:
AID INDIA
Post Box No: 4903, Gopalapuram, Chennai - 600086, India.
Phone: +91-44-42106493 / 28350403

2. Collect Materials:
Food: Milk Powder and Biscuits
Clothes: Children's clothes, saris, lungis and blankets
Medicine: ORS Packets, Crocin/Paracetamol, Metronidazole, Folic acid tablets, Amoxycillin, Cough Syrup, Gentamycin, Cotrimaxazole, Cotton & Bandage.

3. Volunteer:
To raise awareness and mobilize support, help with collection and packaging.
We also need volunteers to work with our relief teams at the field (but for that you must spend at least 10 days in the affected areas and must be very healthy and ready to work in difficult circumstances.)

To keep everyone updated on what's happening at the field level, we have set up a separate website for the relief efforts: www.eurekachild.org/biharflood

Please direct your friends and others you know to this site. We will keep posting new updates, reports, photos and other information from the field at this site. It is important that people across the country (and the world) understand the scale of this disaster. The six districts submerged is almost one-fifth of Bihar under water!

For more information please contact: eurekachild@gmail.com or
Prabha: +91-98403-51132 (prabha.balaraman@gmail.com)
Gomathi: +91-94453-91090 (gomathiaid@gmail.com)

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