Making Communities Resilient in Flood-Prone Bihar

Making Communities Resilient in Flood-Prone Bihar

Updated on 16 Oct, 2019

Floods in the state of Bihar affected more than 80 lakh people and killed 130 individuals. Above normal rainfall led to floods in 13 districts and displaced 1,16,653 people. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), North Bihar received record-high rainfall between July 12 and 13. In another round of floods, in September, more than 21 lakh people are affected and nearly 100 have died

Rising water levels forced people to flee their homes and seek shelter elsewhere. The worst affected districts are Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Madhubani, Araria, East Champaran, Kishanganj, Supaul, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Saharsha, Katihar and Purnia. 

Floods in Bihar are a recurring phenomenon because of its geography. Bihar shares its northern border with Nepal from where several rivers flow into the state. Heavy rainfall in Nepal led to sudden rise in water levels in the Kosi, Bagmati, Kamala Balan, Gandak, Burhi Gandak and their tributaries.

The flood brought life to a standstill. Shops and hospitals were shut making access to essential commodities difficult. Schools were either submerged or were used as shelter for the flood victims. The state government evacuated 1.25 lakh people and set up almost 200 relief camps for 1,16,653 flood-affected people; over 1000 community kitchens have been set up to feed those living in the shelters.

Oxfam India's needs assessment is helping us identify long-term needs of the affected families. Oxfam India is working with partners in Bihar to help families recover from floods.

Flood victims are facing lack of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene issues, and the threat of water-borne diseases. Women and girls are the most vulnerable; with no access to safe toilets or privacy, not only is their safety at risk, they are also susceptible to diseases.

Oxfam India is repairing handpumps, cleaning debris, conducting hygiene trainings, build bathing cubicles and mobile toilet units and providing drinking water.

Farmers and daily wage labourers are the worst hit; floods have washed away standing crops and left the agricultural field uncultivable. Cash for work programmes are being planned to ensure that villagers can earn money by cleaning up the village. Not only will this help the villagers to earn money to get back on their feet, it will also help clean villages and reduce the risk of water-borne diseases.

In the first round of floods, Oxfam India chlorinated 945 hand pumps in Sitamarhi district of Bihar, benefitting 22,650 people, and around 11,000 people have been sensitized on child trafficking, which has a tendency to increase after a disaster. 

In September, Oxfam India reached out to 4,200 people in the slums of Patna. So far, mobile toilets are installed, water tankers are provided, debris is removed from four slums of Patna, benefitting 3,480 people and 40 individuals are trained on post-disaster hygiene practices.

Oxfam India is continuing its response in Bihar and implementing recovery programmes to ensure affected families can return to normalcy.

How Oxfam India’s Disaster Risk Reduction project saves lives

Oxfam India has been working on Disaster Risk Reduction with its partners in Bihar since 2012. It supports communities build resilience to natural disasters. Under the DRR programme, Oxfam India has been working in 45 villages in four blocks of Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, and Samastipur. Because of its DRR work, no causalities were reported in fifteen villages of Bajpatti block in Sitamarhi district.

Bihar is one of the most disaster-prone states in India. It is estimated that the flood-affected area of Bihar increased from 25 lakh hectares in 1954 to 73 lakh hectares in 2016.  This meant an increasing vulnerable population and this was one of the reasons that Oxfam India worked in Bihar; And not just to step in to respond but also stay back for recovery and rehabilitation. While floods are inevitable, Oxfam’s intervention in Bihar has shown that by working on building the resilience of these vulnerable communities actually goes a long way in reducing the risk that disaster brings with it. 


Oxfam India formed Village Disaster Management Committees (VDMCs) so people are better equipped to cope with disasters. Evacuation mock drills were conducted at the village level; adolescents were trained to give first aid and women were trained to tend to broken bones and snakebites. Villagers were trained to keep flood response kits handy; these kits contain dry ration, important papers and contact numbers, and first-aid kit. These kits ensure that families evacuate immediately with all the essential items. These villages have also been trained to adopt resilient livelihood techniques such as vermicomposting, kitchen gardening, and mushroom cultivation.
In the past whenever Oxfam India has responded to floods, it has built raised hand pump models. These ensure that in the next floods, the villagers will continue to have access to safe drinking water; it is particularly important since hand pumps would get submerged and contaminated. The raised hand pumps were designed to withstand flood. On similar lines, raised toilets were constructed and communities trained on personal and community hygiene.
In 2015, Bihar became the first state in India to develop a 15-year Road map on Disaster Risk Reduction (2015 – 2030). This was aligned with the globally agreed Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction that lays down guidelines to build resilience of communities living in disaster prone areas. Oxfam India worked closely with the state Disaster Management Department, to develop this road map. 


Humanitarian Response and DRR

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