New York:The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) is working to curb the risk of disease outbreaks and help millions affected by deadly floods in India and Nepal. The flooding began last month when heavy monsoon rains caused a dam to break, breaching the eastern embankment of the Kosi River, which straddles the border between the two countries. The Sunsari district of Nepal and 16 districts in India’s Bihar state, one of the country’s poorest, have been the areas hit hardest. The Kosi River appears to have altered its course, flooding areas of Bihar not prone to inundation and damaging nearly a quarter million houses.
Working with the Indian and Nepali Governments, WHO has provided emergency medical supplies and equipment for almost 200,000 people. It is also keeping an eye on the possibility of the spread of communicable diseases, supporting child immunization campaigns and ensuring that there is safe drinking water. In India, 3.4 million people have been affected in close to 2,000 villages, and 285 relief camps and 249 health centres have been set up for the uprooted.
WHO is sending emergency medicines and equipment to treat 60,000 people for one month. “The supplies will be able to treat people suffering common diseases and malaria,” said Eric Laroche, Assistant Director-General of the agency. More than 70 WHO staff from the National Polio Surveillance programme are monitoring the health situation in the camps, and the agency is also helping to immunize children between the ages for measles and provide them with oral vitamin A drops. The agency has also supplied 100 chloroscopes to ensure water quality in the camps, and has also given $12,000 to the Indian Red Cross to help deliver relief supplies, including water, tents, bednets and clothing.
Across the border in Nepal, flooding has displaced over 70,000 people, and health teams were dispatched to each emergency shelter rapidly. WHO, with essential stocks standing by in the event of a disaster, was able to respond promptly, sending drugs and emergency medicines to treat 5,000 severe cases, enough health kits for 120,000 people for one month, malaria kits for 10,000 people for three months and diarrhoeal medications to help over 5,500 patients.
The agency is helping Nepalese authorities monitor the health status of the uprooted, and is also helping the Ministry of Health and Population in preparing a massive measles and polio vaccination campaign for children, slated to begin next week. “WHO is monitoring the situation very closely with the Epidemiology and Diseases Control Division of the Ministry of Health, to ensure the health of the affected people,” said Alex Andjaparidze, WHO Representative to Nepal. Yesterday, the UN Children’s Fund expressed grave concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Bihar, where at least 60 killed in the worst flooding to hit north-east India in five decades.
UNICEF is continuing its relief operation amid what it describes as a “grim humanitarian situation” with tens of thousands of people, including many children, still stranded in remote areas. Many of them are living in the open, staying on highlands along river tributaries or on the side of the road, and many have moved more than once to escape rising flood waters. “The displacement of people has been massive as people continue to flee or are evacuated from marooned areas. Many have settled in relief camps, but some of these have also been flooded,” the agency said in a press release. UN News Service