Orissa Super Cyclone: Update on UNICEF Activities since Oct 1999

Situation Report
Originally published
Bhubaneswar, 13 January 2000
I. General Situation

After the cyclone of 18 October and the supercyclone of 29 October hit the state of Orissa, 14 districts out of 30 were identified as particularly devastated. This represents 18,000 villages and some 12.7 million people, including an estimated 3.73 million children.

Orissa already had some of the worst indicators in human development in India. The cyclone has had an impact on farmers, fishermen and local artisans. Only 20% of the coconut trees in Orissa (a major source of income) have survived. Artisans have lost their tools and workshops and small rural production units have been destroyed. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has expressed concern about the plight of aritsans and has called on NGOs to consider their needs in rehabilitation plans.

Although official figures put the number of damaged or destroyed schools at 11,000, unofficial estimates indicate that this total could be as high as 27,000. Many of those still standing have been used as emergency shelters. An estimated 270,000 students between the age of 6 and 14 are out of school. School materials are in urgent demand.

Concerns are being expressed about the amount of tree loss. 9,000,000 trees were uprooted by the cyclone. The traditional coconut tree provided substantial shade for local people during the hot summer months, and there is a fear that without such cover people could die from the heat next year.

The coastal areas of Orissa, especially Puri, have been popular tourist areas especially in the autumn and winter months. Much of the infrastructure to support tourism has been damaged by the cyclone and this will inevitably have an impact on the tourist trade.

II. UNICEF interventions to date

Water and Sanitation

Through the provision of bleaching powder and the support of engineering teams, UNICEF facilitated the repair and rehabilitation of more than 68,000 tubewells. In the Cuttack district, some 3,600 wells out of 4,000 which were damaged have now been repaired with UNICEF assistance. UNICEF also facilitated the establishment of latrines in the Jagatasinghpur district. Water hygiene posters and handbills were distributed widely across the cyclone affected districts, 500,000 sachets of Oral Rehydrations Salts were also supplied immediately after the emergency.

Action has been taken to deal with the problem of resalination of water sources. In recent testing, only 3% of wells have been found to have become recontaminated and an immediate programme of applying bleaching powder to these wells has begun, supported by UNICEF. Water storage tanks have been installed at feeding centres, Primary Health Centres and in camps. 400 trench latrines have also been installed with support from UNICEF.

Over 660 kitchen camps (feeding centres) have now been equipped with water tanks and water storage facilities with the support of UNICEF. 18 water tankers deliver a total of 10,000L of fresh water to these camps each day. The need for 1,200 new tubewells has been indentified following the cyclone, to replace those damaged beyond repair or to supplement existing water sources. To date, UNICEF has supported the provision of 686 of these required wells. In addition UNICEF has supported the reconstruction of 121 village water pipe networks which deliver clean water to communities. UNICEF is supporting 19 mobile water testing teams to carry out this work, with the provision of testing kits and chemicals. UNICEF has provided $100,000 towards the restoration of toilet and sanitation facilities in 400 schools in Ganjam, Balasore and Kendrapara districts. UNICEF is also supporting hygiene education programmes for teachers - up to 3,900 teachers will be trained; with 526 schools and Primary Health Centres in Balasore district already having received training.

Since the beginning of January 400 water storage tanks have been provided, 20 generator sets have been ordered, 20,000 new water testing kits have been supplied, and 10 tonnes of calcium hypochloride has been supplied for decontamination work.

A village cleanliness drive has been launched in 50 villages in Puri, 250 villages in Ganjam and 137 villages in Kendrapara districts.

UNICEF has supported the restoration of toilets in 100 Anganwadi Centres, 120 schools and 17 Primary Health Centres in Ganjam district

Health and Nutrition

UNICEF provided surgical masks, gloves and boots to volunteers involved in clearing human and animal corpses.
In the first month after the cyclone, UNICEF mobilised 570 tonnes of food, medicines and emergency supplies worth more than US$13m. These supplies included polythene sheeting and tarpaulin, 10,000 bags of saline, anti-malaria drugs, rice and high energy biscuits, blankets, jerrycans, 130MT of bleaching powder and 10m chlorine tablets.

In the area of health, UNICEF has assisted in the supply of vital medicines including antibiotics, intravenous drips, 500,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts, and over 500,000 anti-malarial tablets. UNICEF also provided tents to Bhubaneswar hospital during a diarrhoea outbreak to increase bedspace

UNICEF has been involved with urgent discussions with NGOs such as Action Aid, and the State Department of Health to address the need for high quality psychosocial care for people suffering trauma following the cyclone. UNICEF has provisionally agreed to support the training needs of 800 local health workers to identify people in 20 blocks suffering from trauma, and act as referral points to appropriate medical staff in each District Hospital. First assessments indicate that in Kendrapara and Jagatasinghpur districts, which were badly affected by the cyclone, up to 65% of the population are suffering from psycho-social disorders. UNICEF has agreed to support the training needs of teams of psychiatrists being drafted in from other States. UNICEF has also agreed to consider supporting the development of child therapy in schools, and support for teachers and care workers involved with children.

UNICEF has supported a mass measles vaccination campaign which began on 3 December. The campaign is expected to last at least one month, and targets 600,000 children between the age of 6 months and 5 years in three cyclone-affected districts. UNICEF has provided funding for disposable syringes and autodestruct syringes, facilitated the provision of cold chain equipment, provided additional training for local health workers and assisted with the planning and co-ordination of the campaign. UNICEF assisted with the production of handbills, and with the provision of loudspeaker announcements. In the first two days of the campaign, over 40,000 children were vaccinated - an estimated average coverage of 80% of the targeted children. It has become apparent that many of the children first counted in the various blocks may have now left the area, thus reducing the target number.

UNICEF supported the National Immunisation Day for polio on 19 December in Orrisa. The campaign was run State-wide, and targeted over 4.5 million children under the age of five. UNICEF has part-funded the supply of vaccine, provided support for logistics and transport of the vaccines, funded local publicity campaigns, supported the maintenance of the cold chain, and supported the provision of local health workers to undertake the vaccine. A total of 4,567,885 were immunised over three days - over 72% of these children were reached on the first day alone.

With night-time temperatures starting to drop, the need for adequate blankets has been raised again. UNICEF has committed to providing an immediate 500,000 blankets which are now being distributed.

UNICEF has ordered 80,000 family survival kits which include cooking utensils, blankets, clothing, matches, candles and kerosene burners. These should be available for delivery by mid-January, at a cost of about US$40 per kit. It is hoped that these kits can also be incorporated into support for families taking in unaccompanied or orphaned children, to increase the resources available to them.

2,200 tarpaulins have been distributed for use at Angawadi centres (local community health centres for women and children). A significant number of these centres were damaged in the cyclone, with a resulting impact on the level of local health care that could be offered. Provision of tarpaulins to damaged centres will enable the Angawadi system to be restarted more quickly.

Over 2,000 weighing scales and growth chart registers have been distributed to Angawadi centres.


In the area of education, UNICEF has been working with the State Government to identify gaps in provision, and to prioritise needs. The main area of need is in the provision of classroom and teaching materials. UNICEF has agreed to support the provision of text books for children up to the age of twelve in primary education. UNICEF has agreed to support the provision of over 20,000 school kits to replace resources destroyed and damaged in the cyclone. UNICEF is also providing 12,000 tarpaulins to make damaged schools weatherproof until long-term reconstruction commences.

Since January, text books have been distributed to five districts affected by the cyclone. The first consignment of tarpaulins has been distributed in Ganjam and Jajpur districts and a sample teaching materials kit is being field tested prior to orders being placed.

Child Protection

UNICEF has agreed to allocate $100,000 to support a programme with the State Government's Department of Labour that will provide safe accommodation and care for children at risk from exploitative and dangerous labour. This will complement the pilot community homes project, and will cover seven districts affected by the cyclone. The "Prevention of Child Labour Centres" will cater for up to 50 children each, including double and single orphans, children out of schooling, and children from destitute families. Each centre will managed by a local person, and provide daytime care, with overnight accommodation for children who have no homes to return to. Education, health, recreation and vocational training will be provided on site. 60 centres are proposed, reaching up to 3000 children at risk.

In the area of child protection, the development of community centres for orphaned and vulnerable children has continued at a rapid pace. In Ersama block, where the initiative is being piloted, over 30 of the 50 planned centres have now been established. Tents and semi-permanent structures have been provided by the local authorities, and two meals a day are being provided for children. Link mothers have been identified, and are now working with the children to ensure that they have regular meals, are bathed and are not allowed to become isolated within the community. In some areas, the community centres have also provided support for the elderly, destitute women and children living in impoverished families. Students from the Tata Institute of Social Studies have arrived in the area to act as co-ordinators for the project, while discussions take place with interested NGOs and the State Government to finalise a management plan for the centres. The centres have been named "Mamata Gruha" - "motherly love homes". UNICEF has now ordered supplies for the centres, to the value of approximately $40,000 for the first three months as well as agreeing to centrally provide blankets and equipment. UNICEF will also ensure water and sanitation facilities are established at these homes, and provide funding for the link mothers and assistants.

III. Co-ordination

UNICEF has been appointed lead UN agency in Orissa for the co-ordination of rehabilitation activities. The UNICEF office in Bhubaneswar has been upgraded to UN House I, and a second building has been leased and has begun operations as UN House II.

State Level Co-ordination meetings are held on a weekly basis at UN House I, to which all major NGOs working in rehabilitation efforts are invited. Block Level Co-ordination meetings are also held on a regular basis, and the findings of these are fed back to the State Level meetings.

In December, UNICEF as lead UN agency hosted a Rehabilitation Workshop in partnership with the Government of Orissa. Over 100 delegates from various NGOs, plus representatives of UN agencies and the Government of Orissa and donor agencies attended with the purpose of designing a realistic strategy for the rehabilitation process. A number of recommendations were presented under the headings of Habitat, Shelter, Livelihood and Infrastructure, along with recommendations on the issues of mapping, management systems and general co-ordination. The State Secretary of Orissa agreed to take these recommendations and present these to the newly formed State Government Task Force which is addressing rehabilitation.

The newly formed Orissa Disaster Mitigation Authority (ODMA), a State Government supported team charged with co-ordination of rehabilitation activities, has been offered office space and support within UN House II for an initial three month period.

A total of eight United Nations Volunteers (UNVs) have now been recruited and posted to affected districts. Their role will be to assist with information gathering, monitoring and district level co-ordination at a grassroots level. UNICEF, as lead UN agency, has been responsible for assisting with training and orientation of the UNVs and continues to act as a supervising agency for their activities.

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