India: Flooding in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh - CARE International's emergency response

CARE International is distributing emergency relief packs of food and soap to thousands of families left homeless by severe flooding which has devastated much of Gujarat State and neighbouring Madhya Pradesh in India.

More than 2 million people have been affected by the floods in Gujarat, which followed torrential week-long monsoon rain at the beginning of July, and 70 per cent of the state, in the west of India, was waterlogged. Thousands of kuccha (wattle and daub) homes were destroyed, leaving 500,000 people with nowhere to go.

The rains hit Madhya Pradesh a bit later, and in the district of Sagar, 1,760 villages have been badly affected -- 40 were fully submerged.

Miles Murray, CARE International UK's emergency programme officer said: "As is the case in most emergencies, the primary response has come from local communities and the Government. The Government of Gujarat's response to these floods, with the support of the Government of India, has been robust and they have met immediate needs by evacuating people, setting up temporary shelters, supplying water and food packages as well as cash."

Grain stocks have been washed away or rotted and there is a high risk of epidemic outbreak as many drinking water supplies have been contaminated. Many families have also lost their seeds sown just before monsoon and also those who were about to sow have lost all their household belongings.

In its initial response to the emergency, CARE International worked with other agencies, and the Indian Government, to assess the damage and deal with immediate needs for shelter, food and hygiene. Assessments are still ongoing in Madhya Pradesh, but 2,000 households have already been given CARE's emergency packs with durries (cotton carpets which serve as both mattresses and blankets), water storage containers, kitchen utensils and clothes.

Now, as the flood waters recede in Gujarat, CARE International is giving out packs of salt, wheat flour, rice, biscuits, tea leaves, chilly powder, match boxes, soap and toothpowder. It has met the needs of around, 6,500 families (about 32,500 people) from particularly socially disadvantaged groups in the districts of Baroda and Anand -- among the worst-affected areas.

"CARE International believes that it can play a useful role in supporting this response and hopes to secure additional funding to help around 125,000 people," said Mr Murray.

It plans to spend around £1 million over the next six months setting up opportunities for people to do work, such as planting seeds in particularly hard-hit areas, in exchange for food. Such support is crucial, as there is lack of work in the villages, which will take its toll on people's health and education.

Veenuben, a woman from Golana village, Anand district who received support from CARE after her house was damaged in the rains, said: " our priority is to get some labour-work. Without this we cannot repair our houses also. As there is no labour-work available right now, our bad days have just begun. If there are more rains, then we are clueless about what to do and where to go? We know things would remain worse till Deewali (a Hindu festival celebrated in November)".

In addition, CARE International intends to work with the affected communities, helping them to prepare for future emergencies in practical ways. Some of these might be, for example, gathering information about where and when floods or other kinds of disasters might strike, or storing seed and water purification tablets.