India

Oxfam in Orissa - Work still goes on

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On October 31 a massive cyclone hit the state of Orissa in northern India. A 35 metre high tidal wave and 48 hours of gale force winds decimated the state, killing around 35,000 people, leaving 3 million more without homes, and causing 100 million rupees, (over £1,400,000) worth of damage. Oxfam's Deputy Director, John Whitaker visited Puri, Orissa, to witness the extent of the devastation and what Oxfam is doing to help:
"The large-scale loss of trees, severe damage to the road system and the salination of water supplies are among the biggest problems Orissa faces. Deforestation was a problem prior to the cyclone, which destroyed 900,000 coconut palms, and it will now take around 15 years for the trees to regrow.

Because Orissa is such an impoverished state the question of who will pay for reconstruction is a fraught one. However it is not only the physical problems, but the bureaucracy surrounding the relief effort which is a most depressing aspect of the disaster. It results in some of the most vulnerable people being outside the state relief effort, in effect killing people through paperwork. There are many Illegal settlements on the coast that simply don't exist for the state government as they did not feature on the census.

And many people need ongoing help. The infected water and ruined crops have left 3 million people without livelihoods, and in many villages the survivors are elderly people and orphans.

Oxfam has played a major part in the relief effort. Our single biggest contribution has been in sanitising and restoring water supplies, but Oxfam has also been involved in food distribution through partners, and in improving the co-ordination of the relief effort, especially in the vital first days before the state interventions organised effectively.

There is no doubt that Oxfam and its partners responded quickly and made a real difference to those affected by the cyclone, although a huge amount of long term rehabilitation work still remains to be done."