Indian Red Cross sailing the last mile to reach flood-affected people

Publié: 22 octobre 2013 16:24 CET

By Maude Froberg in Odisha

The Indian Red Cross Society has taken to the water with the help of two boats to bring relief to communities cut off by floods after the recent cyclone.

As floods caused by cyclone Phailin worsened, volunteers from the Odisha state branch of the Red Cross in Bhubaneshwar, took part in relief operations in the region.

Rajesh Kumar Mishra was on his first day as a volunteer. "My father is a member of the Red Cross. It comes naturally for me to help the people in need," he says. Part of his work involves preparing family kits filled with candles, matches, rice, sugar, salt, and biscuits.

At his side, 12-year old Rajat Ku Man Gochhe, a Junior Red Cross member who dedicated two days to assist in the relief work. With determination, he hurries between the different packing stations.

Overseeing the whole operation is State branch secretary Mangla Muhanty, who is using every minute to see to the people affected by floods are not forgotten. He says the society is perfectly placed to help at all levels. “We are well placed in the communities through our network," he says.

Dr. S.P. Agarwal, Secretary General of the Indian Red Cross Society, says: “The government has done a good job in evacuation and immediate relief, and Red Cross volunteers and staff are now assisting communities in 75 shelters with on-going needs to help them return to normal life as soon as possible.”

The challenge now is to reach villages in the districts of Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Bhadrak, Kendrapada, Jajpur and Puri districts, as the floodwater has left thousands stranded.

When a relief truck was reaching the ‘new’ shore in the village of Siriapada, a team of Red Cross volunteers began shift the load to the relief boats; a pair of traditional Indian wooden boats.

In addition to the floods, there are also other potential hazards to navigate around including fallen electricity poles with wires almost touching the water.

Team-leader Subhranti Narendra uses her phone to call all the village on the route today. She needs to ensure the community leaders are ready upon arrival. Here, as in other places, the society is matching low-tech practice with high-tech equipment to be as efficient as possible.

There is already a crowd waiting as the boat sails into the first village. Gitanjali Paikara, a mother of four, comes wading to receive her relief package. Around her, people are standing on their roofs.

"We have never seen this amount of water," she says. "In my house, it reaches to the chest, and we cannot stay there."

She is lacking food and has no alternative but to drink and cook in the muddy water surrounding the houses. The relief package from the Red Cross including bags of safe drinking water is a welcome relief.

Fresh water is a priority. Dr. S.P. Agarwal, says: “In view of the situation, we have mobilized six water treatment units, together with response teams specialized in water, to provide potable water.”

Long into the night, the boats keep on going to village after village where stories of flooded homes and schools is repeated. The volunteers arranging the lists of beneficiaries by torchlight once more understand that no one should be left alone in a disaster.