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October 22, 2013 - Los Angeles -International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team is on the ground in the hardest-hitareas in India following Cyclone Phailin, a catastrophic storm roughly the size of Hurricane Katrina that struck the country’s eastern coast on October 12. Immediately following the storm, International Medical Corps mobilized an emergency response to provide critical health interventions in Odisha state. With the support of our partners, including the Balasore District Health Authorities and ChildFund International in India, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team assessed humanitarian needs in Balasore on October 17 and, through mobile medical units, has provided 1,830 primary consultations across 38 villages in the district to date.
District health authorities were overwhelmed by the flood and have asked International Medical Corps for at least ten mobile clinics to cover Balasore for at least the next two weeks. There has been an increase in upper respiratory infections and skin diseases, and a steep increase in cases of diarrhea, as the water supply has been contaminated and relief camps are overcrowded with poor sanitation conditions. In addition to emergency medical care, survivors are likely to be in immediate need of critical supplies like blankets, tents, stoves, hygiene kits, as well as water purification equipment. Over the long-term, International Medical Corps anticipates that sanitation, food security, and livelihood programs will be needed.
Authorities put the death toll from Cylone Phailin at 30 - far fewer than had been feared - but said more than 12 million people were affected by the storm. In its wake, the destruction of standing crops has been massive, and hundreds of thousands of people face returning to the damage or destruction of their homes due to flooding. In Balasore, many communities were not prepared for the continuous rain that has flooded 1,725 villages, affecting 348,778 people and over 260 square miles of crops.
“People were evacuated mostly to public institutions like schools and hospitals. They need food, shelter, water, sanitation,” says Dr. Santhosh Kumar, an orthopedic surgeon who worked with International Medical Corps in Libya and is helping lead its response in India. “The government is working really hard but they’re not able to provide all the things that people need.”
In partnership with ChildFund, International Medical Corps has also assessed humanitarian needs in districts in southern Odisha State that were directly affected by Cyclone Phailin. In Puri and Kendrapara Districts, over three million people were impacted by the cyclone and floods. The main concern in the villages was the loss of livelihoods, as crops, fishing boats, and nets were damaged. The joint assessment team identified the need for the distribution of non-food items, such as hygiene kits, for the affected villages. Medium- and long-term needs have also been identified, including capacity building to improve water purification techniques and raising the platforms for hand pumps to mitigate contamination from future flooding and storms.
On October 22, International Medical Corps and ChildFund conducted a joint multi-sectoral assessment in Balasore’s neighboring district of Mayurbhanj to identify health, water supply, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition and food security, and child protection needs. The cyclone and ensuing floods have affected 737 villages, 342,260 people, and over 200 square miles of crops in Mayurbhanj District. International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team is preparing to scale up its number of mobile medical units in anticipation of the need to provide health services to marooned villages in the district.
International Medical Corps has been a first responder to numerous natural disasters in Asia, including the tsunami in Japan two years ago, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps' mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance. For more information visit: www.InternationalMedicalCorps.org. Also see us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.