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In the second week of October, eastern India was struck by the cyclone Phailin with an intensity not seen in the past 14 years. As the authorities had anticipated the dangers and ordered massive evacuation, human loss could be reduced to a minimum. However, the cyclone left in its wake a devastated region. Terre des hommes, already working in the country, launched a wide programme of aid for those affected. Rehabilitation is the next step, scheduled to begin shortly.
With winds of more than 220 km/h, the cyclone Phailin which hit the coastal region of the Bay of Bengal during the night of 12th October could have caused a loss of human life comparable to 1999, when 10,000 victims were counted. The Indian State took the initiative to organize a massive evacuation in the Odisha and Andhra Pradesh areas. Nearly one million people were taken to shelter; an unprecedented operation for the country. The final toll was 44 deaths – an extremely low number when one considers that over 12 million people live in the areas affected by the disaster.
All the same, 230,000 homes were destroyed, a wide area of agricultural land was flooded and many fishing boats now rest at the bottom of the sea. More than a month after the disaster, many regions still have only limited access to drinking water, mainly in the coastal villages. The destruction of their fields, fishing nets and fishing boats has deprived a large proportion of the population of their income.
An emergency aid and rehabilitation plan is required. Terre des hommes (Tdh), in partnership with Terre des hommes Holland and the local NGO’s Gram Utthan and Chesta, has been getting down to the job since November. The emergency programme of our Foundation is concentrated in the areas of Puri and Ganjam, in Odisha.
The main objectives of this emergency aid are to improve the living conditions of families who have lost their homes; to restore the drinking water supply; and to ensure a return to an acceptable standard of hygiene. Our Foundation and its partners started with the distribution of materials for shelters (tarpaulins, rope, mattresses, blankets), with repairing and cleaning wells, and supplying hygiene kits with soap, patching material, mosquito nets, etc.
The programme is specially oriented towards child protection. In this way, the children’s return to school was one of the targets of this intervention. For this, Tdh distributed kits comprising a school satchel, pencils and pens, exercise books and a box of geometry tools.
The distribution phase finished at the end of November. Nearly 23,000 people from over 4,500 homes among the most severely hit by the cyclone were able to benefit from these actions. The operations for restoring the wells and sanitation will continue until the end of the year.
Next stage: rehabilitation
Terre des hommes has already planned to set up a long-term programme for rehabilitation. This is essential to ensure that the people affected can quickly regain their means of livelihood, as the region is very poor; and in particular, there is a risk of seeing increased cases of malnutrition.
Terre des hommes has thus joined in with a consortium of the NGOs Save the Children, Handicap International and Care to launch a project for rehabilitation aimed at a return to an acceptable standard of living conditions for the affected population (in terms of healthcare, hygiene and housing), to ensure food and economic security as well as strengthening the families’ access to a system of social protection.
"We will be able to do more for the victims of the cyclone, who tend to be ignored by donors in view of the positive image of the Indian government’s actions as relayed by the media”, comments Manuel Gysler, in charge of the Asian zone for Terre des hommes.