Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Visit to Saharsa by Vivek Prasad

From: Vivek Prasad <>
Subject: my report
Date: Wednesday, 15 October, 2008, 9:50 AM

Dear Dharmendra Ji,

The attached file contains my report. I am reproducing the same below.

Visit to Saharsa


I was jolted out of my inertia when I stepped out of the Saharsa railway station on 22nd of September. A lot of people had taken shelter just outside the railway station and I observed that a few organisations were offering food to the people, who were effected by flood. The gravity of the situation hit me hard. My discussion with the state coordinator of AID, Mr Dharmendra Kumar & his team made me realise that the problem was much bigger than I had imagined. And it grew bigger in my mind with each passing day. I visited areas, which were approachable by small boats only. The receding water posed challenges to mobilise relief work as big boats could go in limited areas.


The solace was that organisations like AID, Goonj and others were present in full force. In many instances, they were supporting the govt efforts but in most of the cases, they were working in areas where govt machinery was not active or chose not to go. In any case, the effort put together by all agencies including govt was not enough to fully satisfy the needs of the flood-effected people.


It came as a shock to me that almost after one month of the deluge, the district administration held a meeting with NGOs and other agencies involved in the relief work. I could feel that the concept of Mega camps was ok but it catered to about 20-25 % of the effected population. People would not move far away from their marooned homes and would take shelter at the nearest possible location. This segment was catered to by the NGOs in general. I worked as a volunteer with AID, which had a very effective network to reach out people at the ground level. Volunteers from amongst the villagers were selected for identifying people/families needing the help most. Apart from distributing relief material collected on its own, it also acted as the distribution arm of Goonj. In fact, they were quite happy to assist a group of businessmen from Mumbai in distributing relief material.       


We are at a stage where medical help is critical to prevent various diseases from taking the shape of epidemic. Cases of water borne diseases, cholera etc have been reported and its expected to go up in number. AID was instrumental in bring a team of doctors from Lions club Chennai. The docs with adequate medicines were taken to areas where the medical relief had not reached yet. There was another child specialist from Chennai, who spend close to 10 days in the field with medicines and attended to needy kids. The medicines are also in shortage. The govt has enough stock and it has asked NGOs to take medicines from the Govt stock when ever required but its easier said than done.        


Talking of kids, Pratham is playing a stellar role in organising learning environment for kids in camps and else where. It was eye opener for me that people are working with dedication to educate people at the grass root level.


The relief work seems to be a long drawn process and we need to be prepared for the same. The winter is not far off and blankets would be required soon. And the true recovery shall be when the farmers can start living on their own. We have a long way to go.


I must congratulate all the NGOs and especially AID, who accepted me as a volunteer, for the good work done.

Cell: +91 98106 77081

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