Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Emergency intervention in the flood-affected areas of Bihar, India

Following the unprecedented floods that devastated the State of Bihar in North East India this summer, ACTED started its emergency response operations on August 6th, with the primary aim of assisting flood-affected populations upon return to their homes. In collaboration with our local partner, Bihar Sewa Samti (BSS), our assessment team conducted field visits to pre-selected areas of Bisfi Block, in the district of Madhubani. Many of the field visits were conducted using boats, as most of the targeted area was severely flooded.
Thanks to the financial support of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) and the help of BSS, ACTED has since launched an operation in the municipality of Rathos to assist 2180 households (approximately 10,000 individuals). The criteria for the selection of the supported households included the level of devastation caused by the flood as well as their socio-economic vulnerability, most of the selected beneficiaries belonging to the dalit (or untouchable) cast.
With the support of the European Commission, ACTED will implement emergency relief activities in the fields of shelter construction, water and sanitation, hygiene promotion and cash for work, in order to assist the target-population in recovering from the disaster, as well as to enhance their capacity to be better prepared for future floods.
Shelters will be constructed for families who have lost their homes according to local traditions and available materials. They will be elevated by a brick wall to ensure that they are above the highest flood level, preventing future damage from floods.
All hand-pumps of the target area will be cleaned and some will be elevated to prevent contamination and ensure their accessibility during future floods.
In parallel, a large hygiene promotion campaign will be launched targeting the entire population, to prevent the spread of disease.
Finally, community infrastructure such as roads and common buildings will be repaired through a cash-for-work scheme employing at least 80% of the households in the target area. In addition to the infrastructural repairs, the scheme will also bring a much-needed source of income to the area, supporting the local population with temporary jobs until they can go back to work on their fields.
In addition to its field activities, ACTED will also support the wider flood response operation by promoting the use of GIS mapping among emergency response stakeholders.
The project is a new challenge for ACTED as it is our very first intervention in this area. With the support and continued trust from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department, we are determined to assist the population of Bihar at this time. The European Commission’s mandate to its humanitarian aid department (ECHO) is to provide emergency assistance and relief to the victims of natural disasters or armed conflict outside the European Union. The aid is intended to go directly to those in distress, irrespective of race, religion or political convictions.