In the first week of August, following several days of heavy non-stop rainfall, the Northeastern state of Manipur experienced the worst floods ever in 200 years. One district was completely submerged, another was partially submerged, landslides claimed lives, and entire villages were cut off due to roads being inundated with flood waters. There was little or no relief reaching these badly affected areas.
Taking stock of this situation, we contacted a few local voluntary organizations and persons who were on ground in and around Guwahati and Imphal. We also connected with people and organizations keen to support us by supplying relief items and then reached out to airline organizations requesting airlift assistance.
Monikongkona Boruah, Padmaja Gogoi and team from Guwahati organized a collection drive for relief items in kind at Guwahati. Simultaneously, a funds drive was underway so purchases of relief items could be made locally at Imphal. Twitter and FB were used extensively to promote these drives.
Chitra Ahanthem from Manipur responded to our call for volunteers on ground who could help us reach out to flood affected persons. She put in dedicated and whole-hearted efforts to this endeavor.
She began with assessments, going from village to village and ascertaining the specific needs there. She visited various flood affected areas in Thoubal district. She reported that though the actual flooding lasted for about 2 days, the amount of mud, filth, and silt it left in its wake had rendered it impossible for people to return to their homes. This despite the fact that it had stopped raining for over 2 weeks now. She observed that the houses in some of these areas were covered up to thigh level with sludge. Some people were living with relatives residing in a less affected area, and were going to their own homes in the daytime to clean up the mud. Yet others whose homes were totally destroyed had to take refuge n makeshift shelters.
She also reported that drinking water sources such as rivers and ponds in the villages have been totally covered with mud and muck, rendering them unusable and unsafe to drink. Thus, drinking water is a problem everywhere. Even the lanes in the villages were filled with so much silt that JCBs were being used to make it walkable.
A few of the villagers were getting chlorine tabs while local clubs were handing out alum or bleaching powder, but no long term solutions seemed to be in place.
Along with Chitra, we also partnered with a local registered NGO Diocesan Social Service Society (DSSS), Imphal, to provide relief to the affected areas. Both Chitra with her group and the DSSS team put in incredible efforts to accomplish the distribution, battling bad roads, with vehicles that would get stuck in slush, amidst rumors of political agitations and protests. Airline organizations such as Air Asia, Indigo, Spicejet and Go Air have been very supportive.
From past experiences in responding to natural disasters, we observed that women’s needs often get overlooked in the relief measures that are taken. Whether it is a flood or an earthquake or some other disaster or crisis, the village women who are affected hesitate to speak out of their extremely personal needs. Many relief organizations do not even consider sanitary pads as part of their relief packages let alone cloth based pads for rural women who have never used branded ones. This is one of the most fundamental needs of women and ought to be an essential part of relief measures. Yet it is often ignored. To remedy this, we made gender based relief a priority. We sourced reusable cloth based pads from Goonj and ensured that it reached those women who needed it the most. Over 350 women in two districts received them. In addition, we also despatched branded sanitary pads for the younger women who would be familiar with using them.
Cartons of food packs, chlorine tablets, blankets, tarpaulins, and other relief items were distributed in various affected areas such as Chumnang, Wairi, Island Pallel, Chakpikarong, Phaijang, and Theimongkung among others.
In the meantime, ‘The SARA’ a voluntary organization from Jammu shipped our partners cartons of medicines to be distributed in the affected areas.
We received reports that there is no electricity in some of the areas as the transformer was badly soaked in the floods. So we arranged for solar lamps that could be supplied to households with school going children or with family members who are ailing and/or have old people.
A few of the areas, we learnt, are getting 20 kg rice supply from MLA and other agencies in the area but other areas are severely deprived.
At Sekmaijin and Thoubal Leishangthem, families were living on the roadside in makeshift camps/tents along with their livestock and cattle in near proximity. The place was smelling and kids had swollen bellies. Around 1800 people are sharing two latrines.
Fresh landslides are being reported in Ukhrul. Areas like Tumukhong, Chadong, Ramrei are facing acute shortage of food and water as 1000s of people there are crammed into makeshift relief camps. People there are struggling to survive.
Local groups are conducting medical camps to cater to the ailing. But there is a dire need for voluntary doctors and qualified medical staff.
Curfews and bandhs are frequent in this part of the country yet this has not deterred the morale and spirit of the local teams as they continue to work hard to ensure the affected areas receive relief.
Summing up, so far, we have been able to reach out with relief to 397 families in 12 villages of Thoubal and Chandel districts.
You can view photos of the flood aftermath and relief efforts here:[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”18″ gal_title=”#ManipurFloodRelief Initiative and Situation”]
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This is just a start though and there is a long way yet to go. Please continue to support us so that we reach out to more!