UNICEF responds to heat wave in India

News and Press Release
Originally published
NEW DELHI, 6 June 2003 - Severe heat wave conditions in several coastal south districts of Andhra Pradesh and adjoining coastal districts of north Tamil Nadu since 20 May and interior parts of Orissa since 27 May are imperiling the lives of people in the region. Heat wave conditions have also developed in parts of Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Rajsthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. The maximum temperature recorded in Andhra Pradesh was 47.5 degree centigrade at Gannavaran in East Godavari district on 22 May 2003 while in Orissa it touched 48.1 degree centigrade at Titlagarh on 3 June 2003.
In response to a Government request, UNICEF supported the Government of Orissa by providing 3.5 million Oral Rehydration Salts sachets, 5 million halogen tablets, and 2000 bags of 25 kg bleaching powder for distribution in the affected districts.

UNICEF is working very closely with the health department, women and child development department and the Relief Commissioners' offices in the states and is assisting the state governments in responding effectively to the heat wave situation.The severity of the heat wave has been aggravated by the continuing drought in most of these states. However, the heat wave will be contained soon due to the onset of the monsoon rains. As the heat wave condition has been associated with the drinking water shortages and severe drought situations in these states, UNICEF support has to be in terms of emergency preparedness through wider dissemination of practices to avoid heat strokes.

This severe heat wave has affected 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh, eight of them most severely. The maximum temperature has been 7 to 10 degrees above normal. In Andhra Pradesh, more than 1300 people are reported to have lost their lives due to the severe heat wave. Most of the victims were daily wage labourers, rickshaw pullers or construction workers and are from the Below Poverty Line (BPL) households. Andhra Pradesh has almost 12 million poor people, about 15 per cent of its population, in the Below Poverty Line category.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 10,000/- to the next of kin of the victim and have advised the people not to work from 12.00 noon to 3.00 p.m. The All India Radio and television channels are giving hourly bulletins, disseminating do's and don'ts to protect people from heat strokes. The monsoon rains normally start by the first week of June, but this year is expected to be delayed by at least ten days. This monsoon rains will bring reprieve to the situation by bringing down the temperature.

In Oriisa, the Government has advised the people to stay away from outdoor work during the peak hours from 11.30 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. All the hospitals, primary health centres and dispensaries have prepared themselves for treating the heat stroke victims. Water huts have been opened in all the affected districts of Western Orissa. The examination timings have been rescheduled. Control rooms are operational in all the affected districts.

For further information, please contact:

Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York, Tel: ++ 212 326-7426
Damien Personnaz, UNICEF Geneva, Tel(41) 022 909 5517