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2nd January 2014, Relief Camp, Shyamli district, Uttar Pradesh India.
Thousands of children, pregnant women and lactating mothers are being evicted from relief camps that were setup for riot affected people in Muzaffarnagar. Government officials have cited media reports describing living conditions in relief camps as unsafe, the reason for this eviction. Further details on where the government expects these people to spend this harsh winter are awaited. Earlier 34 child deaths were reported from these camps. Save the Children is highly concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the families being evicted, many of whom have lost their relatives or neighbours in this violence and had their homes looted or destroyed. Some of the children are suffering from pneumonia, diarrhoea and are on the verge of death.
“I can never go back to my village. Our house was ransacked. We fled to save our lives and honour and left behind everything. I have an unmarried teenage sister we can’t risk going back to that village” says Riyaz, who fled Nala village in Muzaffarnagar and took refuge in a relief camp when riots broke out. Thousands like him lost self-respect and trust in their own villages and have no place to call their home.
Over 50,000 fled their homes when clashes broke out between two sections of the community in Muzaffarnagar district, Uttar Pradesh on 27 August 2013. The subsequent violence that spread to neighbouring villages reportedly claimed 43 lives, injured 93, and thousands of homes were looted and burnt .A majority of the displaced belonged to the Muslim community, who sought protection and shelter in madrasas, public schools and relief camps set up on government lands in the adjacent Muslim dominated villages.
Before the local administration announced dismantling of all relief camps in the area, it has supported strong collaboration and coordination with other agencies, civil society groups and NGOs like Save the Children to improve living conditions at the camps.
Most worryingly, eviction of thousands of these families from the relief camps might mean reliving another bout of trauma, anxiety and uncertainty for children and their families.
“We urge the government to ensure that these children, mothers and pregnant women along with their families are ensured their entitlement to safety and better living conditions” said Ms Shireen Vakil Miller, Director, Advocacy and Policy, Save the Children. “Thousands of helpless young eyes are looking at all of us, especially the government and hoping to have a better, safer and warmer 2014”
Save the Children’s Response:
- Save the Children is currently working in the two relief camps at village Majra and village Khurgan in Shyamli district of Uttar Pradesh. The two camps together house over 400 displaced families having almost 2000 children, many of whom are suffering from pneumonia, diarrhoea etc.
- The organisation had already provided NFI kits (Non Food Items) to over 342 families and is monitoring the situation in light of the camps being evacuated. The organisation will resume operations to support another 500 families in the next phase, depending upon how the situation evolves.
- Each NFI Kit consists of 4 Blankets, 2 Tarpualin Pieces, A Hygiene Kit, 1 Jerry Can, 2 packets of Mortein Mosquito Coil Packets, 1 packet of Assam Mix per child (under 6).
- Child Friendly Spaces and Temporary Learning Centres equipped with books and playing material for children were in the process of being set up.
- Save the Children works to protect vulnerable children, pregnant women and lactating mothers at the relief camps, by ensuring that they can access shelter, food security and healthcare encouraging community based mechanisms
Save the Children has pre-existing programmes in the state of Uttar Pradesh India, where it is running health, education and nutrition projects. The state accounts for over a 25 % of the total infant deaths reported across India and has the worst Infant Mortality Rate in the country. In the age group of 0 to 5 years, 73.9% children in the state are anaemic, 56.8 % children are stunted, 25% children have low birth weight.
In the recent past the organisation’s advocacy initiatives at the highest level in the state government have yielded positive results and the state government has taken initiatives to improve the abysmal infant mortality rates and malnutrition levels among infants and children.
Advocated Future Action:
Save the Children remains committed to supporting the population of Uttar Pradesh in both its humanitarian response activities related to the current conflict affected population, and also to support the longer term development needs of this most densely populated state of India.
We hope that the government has a plan in place for families being evicted from the relief camps. And it will ensure that all the infants, pregnant women, children, adolescent girls and differently abled will get access to improved living conditions with assured supply of nutritious food, safe drinking water, proper toilets and bathrooms, warm clothing to protect them from the lethal cold wave that hits this part of India at this time of the year.
- That vital protection support to vulnerable children will be provided, to ensure they have access to food and healthcare.
- That appropriate steps will be taken to ensure continuation of children’s education.
- That children separated from their parents will be identified and provided necessary support to reunite with their families.
- Psychosocial support will be provided to help children to cope with trauma and access to safe play areas.
- That the government will take into confidence and will collaborate with civil society groups and NGOs working in the relief camps and utilise their technical expertise on different thematic areas to ensure a better response in future.
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Notes to Editors
- Names of victims have been changed to protect their identities.
About Save the Children:
Save the Children works in more than 120 countries and 14 states across India. We save children's lives. We fight for their rights. We help them fulfil their potential. For more information please visit www.savethechildren.in