India: Heavy flooding forces thousands to flee in Madhya Pradesh

By Jyoti Rao

MADHYA PRADESH, India, 12 July 2005 - Heavy flooding caused by torrential rainfall has struck the eastern region of India's Madhya Pradesh state, forcing thousands to flee their homes. Children and families are taking refuge in relief centres and temporary camps. Emergency supplies have already arrived on the scene.

The flooding has affected thousands of people in the districts of Katni, Rewa, Sagar, Panna, Stana, Damoh and Chhatapur. The Katni district, named after the river that flows through it, has virtually become an island surrounded by flood waters on all sides.

In Katni town over 4,000 people, including 600 children less than five years of age, have been placed in temporary shelters. Roads are blocked, telecommunication systems have broken down, and electricity is unavailable in many places. In some areas exposed waste, spoiled food and animal carcasses are posing a threat of infection.

In the Panna district, approximately 60,000 people have been affected, and more than 4,000 people are currently in relief centres and camps.

Emergency response

Within 24 hours of the beginning of the flood emergency, UNICEF rushed essential supplies to affected areas, including water containers, plastic mats, buckets, shovels, candles, match boxes, mosquito coils, candles and other items.

UNICEF rapid response teams have been deployed to Katni and Panna districts and are supporting district administration in relief efforts.

An effort is being made to educate people at the camps about basic hygiene practices which are essential in emergency situations. UNICEF team members are providing information about cleanliness, sanitation, safe drinking water and the use of oral rehydration salts.

"As the water recedes it will be essential to prevent outbreaks of disease that can affect people, especially children. Hence issues like environmental sanitation, chlorination of water, etc. become very important," said Tapas Datta, State Represenative, UNICEF office for Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.

Many of the region's health centres are now under water, meaning that access to essential medicines and health care is far more difficult for the population. Among the duties of the UNICEF rapid response team are repairing and cleaning health centres once waters recede, disposing of animal carcasses, and supporting restoration of basic health services.