India

What we do: emergencies - Indian floods

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A week after the worst floods on record devastated parts of the Indian state of Maharashtra, killing at least 1000 people and rendering millions homeless, the government is still not doing enough to help the poorest people affected.
Though relief efforts have been improving since the rains have subsided, at least 15 million people are still under water and susceptible to the hundreds of cases of cholera, gastroenteritis and dysentery that have already broken out.

Slum people, hit worse by the floods, say that a shortage of fuel is amplifying health problems. A bottle of kerosene, usually available in ration shops for 10 rupees, is available on the 'black market' for 30 rupees now. Still there are long queues for the same.

Electricity and water supply are almost blocked in most areas and what water there is, is being sold at a very high prices making it inaccessible for the poor and lower middle class people.

In Bhimwadi slum in South Mumbai - the devastating floods and unrelenting rain has triggered mass displacement, though poor people remain wary of moving away, fearful that their land will be taken.

Water borne diseases are rampant and some doctors have warned people to take precautions against the bacterial disease leptospirosis. Some of the people have been in knee-deep flood water for several days.

In Shivashakthi nagar slum in South Mumbai, residents say that they have not received any relief materials. It has been pouring continuously and the whole slum has been submerged since last Tuesday.

Children are especially affected. They have lost some clothes and the rest is soaked in water. Flood and unrelenting rain is testing their resilience. Fever, diarrohea and chest infections are rampant.

"Focusing on the resilience of the people -- while a good thing -- has misled international aid agencies and hampered relief efforts on the ground," ActionAid's emergencies and conflicts advisor P.V. Unnikrishnan told Rueters.

"And what we are seeing is road-side charity -- only for areas that are visible from the main roads. There is also too much focus on Bombay, areas outside the city are not getting much attention. It's been a week now, it's time for a reality check.

"And as always happens in a disaster, it is the poorest -- the slum dwellers, the daily wage earners -- who suffer the most, and their recovery is going to be a long nightmare."

ActionAid has been working with the rains victims through its partners in Mumbai and two districts of Maharashtra namely Ratnagiri and Raigarh.

ActionAid is working to provide immediate relief to some of the most pressing needs. These include:

- Financial assistance for families of the deceased.

- Food distribution for the homeless.

- Rehabilitation and financial help for people who have lost their jobs because of the tragedy.

- Upgrading technologies for weather forecasting to improve assessment of disasters in the long term.

- Water purification

At the same time ActionAid is taking action to mobilise civil society organisations along with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Nirmala Niketan and Times Foundation. Such initiatives are aimed at creating pressure on the local administration and the government.