UNICEF: Cyclones in Orissa 25 Jan 2000

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. There was extensive environmental damage, including the uprooting of trees essential to the shade that people depend on during the hot months of summer. As many as 11,000 schools were damaged or destroyed. Over a quarter-million children are not in school. Damage to the area's economy, including its lucrative tourist trade, will take years to reverse.

The Situation of Children

UNICEF works around the world to safeguard children from the dangers that exist in the wake of the tragedy. Children need safe water to drink, adequate nutrition, schools to attend and help in facing the traumas of death, destruction and the disruption of normal life. UNICEF has been active in Orissa, seeking to restore a sense of well-being and security to the children of the region.

As the lead UN agency in Orissa for co-ordination of relief and rehabilitation efforts UNICEF has provided much-needed water purification tablets, health kits, blankets, water tanks and jerry cans, candles, high-energy biscuits, oral rehydration salts, and other emergency items. Presently UNICEF is carrying out long term programmes in several essential areas.

Health and Nutrition

In the first month after the cyclone, UNICEF mobilised 570 tonnes of food, medicines and emergency supplies worth more than US $13 million. 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 10 million chlorine tablets.

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

First assessments indicate that in Kendrapara and Jagatasinghpur districts, which were badly affected by the cyclone, up to 65 per cent 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 supported a mass measles vaccination campaign which began in December. The month-long campaign targeted 600,000 children between the age of 6 months and 5 years in three cyclone-affected districts. UNICEF 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 also 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 per cent 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.


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. 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.

Development of community centres for orphaned and vulnerable children has continued at a rapid pace. In Ersama block, over 30 of 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. In some areas, the community centres have also provided support for the elderly, destitute women and children living in impoverished families.

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 per cent 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.

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.

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