Cyclone Aila hit the Sunderbans in the Indian sub continent near Bay of Bengal on the afternoon of 25th May 2009, with galeforce winds up to 120 kmph, and torrential rain. As it crossed over the coastline of South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal, Aila temporarily strengthened to a Category 1 cyclone.
Aila ripped through 17 districts in West Bengal, of which South 24 Parganas was one of the worst affected. Storm surges at the coast flooded agricultural areas with saline water. High winds and high tide became a devastating combination. According to UNDMT and media reports, Aila was one of the worst cyclones in decades, in which about 6.3 million people were affected and nearly half a million homes were lost or damaged.
Following cyclone Aila, much of the damage was caused by massive flooding, which contaminated drinking water sources with seawater and killed the fish that people rear in the freshwater ponds. This affected people's livelihoods in the long run. As Zubin Zaman, Oxfam India's Humanitarian Program Manager, pointed out, "The ponds are a lifeline - they give people water for household needs, water to irrigate, and fish".
Of the few functional handpumps used for drinking water, most were inundated or choked with debris. Most existing toilets were washed away, and there was serious pollution from sewage and dead animals. The threat of water-borne epidemics was very high, including cholera, which is endemic throughout this area. The supply of safe drinking water had reached crisis levels. For several days following the cyclone, hundreds of thousands of people were homeless, clustered into municipal buildings and schools, camped outside on higher ground.
“The surroundings were filthy; rainwater puddles were all over the place. Mosquitoes bred quickly in the stagnant water and we had a lot of trouble with them. It was particularly the children who were not able to sleep because of the insects,” said Rokeja Bibi, Junput Village.
Cyclone Aila Response 2009: Oxfam India launched a response and helped 10,000 families or approximately 60,000 men, women and children.
1. Emergency Shelter for families
10,000 shelter kits distributed to families
2. Vital Non Food Items (NFI) for families
10,000 NFI kits were distributed to families
3. Safe Water for Communities
1. Repairing of tube well
Minor repairing for above-ground components was done, including changing of washers, handles, plunger set, body, nuts, bolts etc. 103hand pumps were repaired and made functional.
2. Pond dewatering including pond cleaning and bund repair
Community ponds were identified for dewatering. MOUs were drawn up with the Panchayat and pond owners. Altogether 208ponds were dewatered.
3. Water testing
Water testing was routinely done for salinity, residual chlorine and bacteriological tests. 205such tests were conducted, and communities were made aware of the results of these tests.
4 .Volunteer Training & ORS Booths
5. Community Awareness
Awareness campaigns were organized continuously in all the villages throughout the programme period and were a very effective way of getting messages on public health across to the community .
6. Hygiene & Sanitation
1. Village cleaning
Campaigns to clear wreckage, garbage in communities, and clearing of streets were conducted.
B. Construction of Emergency Toilets
104community toilets, primarily meant for women and children, were constructed.
Reckoning with Aila
Aila Final Report
Cyclone Aila Response 2009
A summary of the Information gathered from Media, Oxfam Staff, Assessment Reports and Partner organisations. OI situation Report (2009)
Oxfam Complements Government Relief Measures to Reach out to 5 Million People Displaced by Cyclone Aila
Jyotsna Dinda in front of her house, destroyed by the cyclone Aila; Village Sitarampur, Sunderbans, West Bengal. Photo Oxfam India
OXFAM COMPLEMENTS GOVERNMENT RELIEF MEASURES TO REACH OUT TO 5 MILLION PEOPLE DISPLACED BY CYCLONE AILA -``People not getting adequate food, water and sanitation facilities,'' reveals Oxfam India assessment report
New Delhi, June 1. Oxfam, a leading humanitarian relief and development agency, has started distributing relief material to about 10,000 cyclone affected families in the 24 South Paragnas district of West Bengal following an assessment by its team that the Government machinery needs to be immediately and urgently complimented with relief supply .
``Though the Government of West Bengal has been very proactive in responding to the cyclone Aila by carrying out immediate search and rescue work, the relief operations are not sufficient to meet the needs of the affected people. People in many villages have complained that they are not getting sufficient amount of food, safe drinking water and adequate shelter. We have therefore decided to reach out to as many affected people as possible in the relief camps,'' says Nisha Agrawal, CEO, Oxfam India.
An Oxfam India assessment report carried out in South Paragnas district reveals that people who are staying in the camps have not yet received aid in adequate quantities though the government has started sending Chura (flattened rice) and jiggery to the villages. People who are staying in their own houses, do have stock of food grains but face the crisis of fuel wood. There is no availability of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation and hygiene cover does not exist threatening the existence of people in relief camps.
``We were one of the first humanitarian development agencies to carry out a rapid assessment in two blocks of the South Paragnas district. Following the assessment, we have now decided to supplement the relief measures already initiated by the Government and other development agencies in Namkhana and Patharprathima blocks of the district. We will be providing safe drinking water and adequate sanitation cover for both men and women,'' says Nisha.
Initially, the Oxfam India relief measures will benefit 10,000 households and the idea is to reach 10,000 more households in the coming days and weeks with the support of the people of India and the corporates. An Oxfam India assessment team which toured the affected districts immediately after the cyclone found that people from all the villages are not in the camps as there are some villages which are low lying and are still under deep water. People from these villages have taken shelter in schools and panchayat bhawans. Many families who have lost their houses have taken shelter in their neighborhood.
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