SCF: Statement India Cyclone

Report
from Save the Children
Published on 01 Nov 1999
A major cyclone hit the northern coast of Orissa, in India, on Friday 29th October. Initial reports suggest that it has caused immense damage, with up to 1.5 million people displaced and 10 million affected. So far, 3,000 people are reported dead but this figure is impossible to verify. The neighboring states of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have also been affected.
The Indian government and military are assisting those affected by the cyclone, and there are between 12 and 14 international aid agencies active in Orissa. The Indian government has not issued an appeal for international assistance.

The cyclone was the second to hit Orissa in October. Earlier in the month a cyclone hit the south of the state; although not widely reported, this storm caused widespread damage and significant loss of life. Ganjam, Puri and Khurda districts were all badly affected, and in Gopalpur 27 villages were submerged.

Key issues affecting children

The two successive cyclones have disrupted communications and travel across the whole of Orissa state, making accurate assessments of damage and needs very difficult. However, previous experience suggests that the impact on children will be significant.

The immediate physical and emotional effects on children are likely to be severe. Some will have lost members of their families. This will cause immediate distress and may have economic consequences, particularly if the main bread-winner has been killed. The poorest families are most vulnerable. Groups such as small businesspeople who have lost their means of production and female-headed households dependent on charity will be worst affected.

There is also a pressing need for shelter as thousands of families have lost their homes. The longer-term impact on agricultural livelihoods is still not clear.

Many schools are likely to have been damaged.

The Save the Children Fund's response

The Save the Children Fund (SCF) has a small office in Orissa State that focuses on long-term development work in the south. It has not worked in the North since 1988, and currently has no partners or programme there. For this reason, emergency response efforts are targeting the south, where SCF works closely with local 'partner' organisations with experience on the ground. For example, SCF has a programme in Gopalpur, one of the worst-affected districts in the south.

SCF is completing an assessment of damage in southern Orissa and drawing up a proposal for response. It will focus on 'medium-term' interventions, including food-for-work programmes and the provision of shelter. These programmes will be implemented in partnership with the government and other aid agencies, and are expected to be up and running very soon. The affected population will be active participants.

In the North, although not directly operational, SCF will make an assessment of the response of other agencies, identify unmet needs, and launch a response if appropriate. The assessment will focus on if and how the needs of children are being met.