Athijeevan: Fighting back to attain stability after Kerala Flood

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After the unusually heavy monsoon rains that led to Kerala’s worst flooding in nearly a century — over 400 people were reported dead, and 10319 houses damaged affecting 5,400,000 people across 760 villages. One and a half million people abandon their flooded homes and seek refuge in relief camps.

Since August 8, Caritas India is providing humanitarian relief response to address the emergency. With the immediate relief response, medical treatment, medical supplies, food, non-food and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WaSH) support was provided to the 32,245 affected families. After the relief response, long-term recovery programme ‘Athijeevan’ was initiated by Caritas India in Kerala with Shelter, Livelihood and Wash Support.

Caritas India along with Kerala Social Service Forum held a review of Kerala flood recovery programme at Kottayam on February 15, 2019, with all the 31 partners in the field to gauge the progress of the programme.

“Athijeevan was the name given to the Kerala Flood Recovery Programme as Athi and Jeevan referred to ‘More Life’ and this was the goal of all the Church’s development interventions. Secondly, ATHIJEEVAN refers to ‘Endurance’ or fighting back to attain stability after a setback as was the goal of the Kerala Floods Recovery Programme”, shared Fr. Paul Moonjely, Executive Director of Caritas India.

In Kerala, Caritas India is supporting 12,199 families with Wash, Shelter, and Livelihood in the recovery phase across 322 villages under 13 districts with the help of 31 partners. 940 families will be supported with shelter repair and 2919 families with water source repair, water testing, open well chlorination, water filtration plant and water purifiers under WasH. Livestock rearing, seed support, training, and capacity building will be provided to 8340 families to initiate tailoring, petty shops and flower making units under livelihood.

All the partners presented the expenditure under rescue, relief, and rehabilitation along with the details of flood rehabilitation activities with special focus on Athijeevan Flood recovery programme. It helped to understand the current position of each partner in the implementation of the project, to identify the bottlenecks in the course of project implementation and give insights for resolving issues and ensuring effective project implementation.

“The culture of document conservation and insurance need to be promoted”, shared Fr. Martin, Director of ESSS during the meeting. With massive loss of lives, private and public property, what added the woes is the mass loss and destruction of vital documents during the flood.

Fr. Sebastian Kochupurackal, Executive Director of HDS urged to dialogue with the Government and voice the context-specific concerns of the affected; Delay caused in Beneficiary Identification due to the delay in Government declaring their packages for the Flood victims and eligibility; Role of Village Development Committees in High Range as a permanent Monitoring Committee.

Sharing his concern, Fr. Jacob Mavunkal, Executive Director of PSSP said, Flood, affected Victims do not wish to relocate and in case of severe drought in Palakkad the impetus needs to give on the promotion of water conservation through rainwater harvesting tanks and well-recharging. Similarly, topics of advocacy and lobby, CSR fund, CLDRR, revolving fund were also discussed in the meeting.

As a way forward, all the partners were encouraged to form Village Disaster Management Committee (VDMC) and a Village Disaster Management Plan (VDMP) in all ATHIJEEVAN project 317 villages This would be one of the major objectives of the two-year Disaster Risk Reduction programme which would follow the Recovery Phase. It was also suggested that each partner would identify a bunch of volunteers and select two from them to build their capacity as Trainers for forming a Task Force for Disaster Preparedness.