Health initiatives in flood affected Bihar
Darbhana, June 27 (ANI): It is that time of the year again, when people in the north Indian plains wait anxiously for the rains to escape the trials of the unbearable Indian summer. The family of Ramdev Safi in Bisphi Block of Madhubani District, Bihar, is waiting too, but with dread and fear: for the water monster, they are sure, will strike again.
Bisphi Block of Madhubani District does not require any introduction. The birthplace of Vidyapati, one of the most ardent worshippers of the Hindu deity Shiva, this region enjoys great religious significance in Indian mythology. But even the prayers of the villagers don't seem enough to save them from this annual disaster caused by floods.
Being India's most flood-prone State, 76 percent of the population in the north Bihar lives under the recurring threat of flood devastation. The area prone to floods in Bihar (before its bifurcation) as assessed by Rashtriya Barh Ayog (RBA) is 42.60 lakh hectares. There are a number of rivers in the plains of Bihar and in adjoining Nepal, which have their catchment in the geographically nascent Himalayas.
Originating in Nepal, the rivers of Kosi, Burhi Gandak, Gandak, Kamla Balan, Bagmati, Mahananda and Adhwara Group carry huge discharge and heavy sediment load and deposit it in the plains of Bihar which have a mere 35% catchment areas of these rivers.
A review by Kale (1997) indicates that the plains of north Bihar have recorded the highest number of floods during the last 30years. In the years 1978, 1987, 1998, 2004 and 2007, Bihar witnessed floods of particularly high magnitude. The total area affected by floods has also increased during these years.
The floods of 2004 demonstrate the severity of the flood problem when a vast area of 23490 Sq Km was badly affected by the floods of Bagmati, Kamla and Adhwara rivers, causing loss of about 800 human lives, despite the Ganga, the master drain flowing low.
Among the most affected by these floods are the regions of Muzzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga and Madhubani. Even though people have become "accustomed" to the sufferings, it is difficult to understand their plight. The worst is the situation of the dwellers of remotely located villages, which fail to attract the attention of the administration and media either during or after the disaster.
Regions like Madhubani are further marred by the lack of basic facilities.
Bisphi Block in Madhubani holds a population of 2500 to 3000 people, a vast majority of which is represented by Dalits. During the floods, villagers are forced to spend their days in fettered darkness in their broken houses. The period of flooding is disastrous, but once the water level goes down, difficulties intensify. Water pollution and water logging bring on the wrath of epidemics; typhoid, diarrohea, and cholera spread insidiously, not only in the affected regions but in villages further away as well.
Children are the worst affected; in the absence of correct and timely treatment, their very survival is at stake. Parents struggling to put together two square meals watch helplessly as their little ones waste away in their arms. Fifty-five year old Rajendra Shah, who lost his young son to the disease in the absence of timely treatment, is only one among scores of such tragic narratives that come alive each year, as families wait, yet again, for fate to strike.
For years, villagers have complained of the lack of primary health facilities in the village. Listening to the plight of the villagers, the government has, this year, been proactive in taking pre-flood measures. Recently, the Health Department of the Bihar Government has announced its policy to fight water-borne diseases with determined focus.
The State Chief Health Secretary has provided guidelines to the Chief Surgeon to purchase the necessary medicines in adequate stocks and make these available at the Primary Health Centers of the identified flood- affected regions of the state. This will hopefully ensure that there is no outbreak of epidemics and guarantee correct and timely treatment of the villagers.
"Our only expectation, after the Almighty, is from the sarkar. Most of us live in mud houses, there is no guarantee of our next meal, and we survive on unclean water. We work as daily wagers and earn a meager salary, which, if spent on medicines, leaves us with a hand-to-mouth existence.
The current initiatives by the government to strengthen the health services in our region give us hope that even if this natural calamity cannot be avoided, we can at least save the lives of our children," says Ramdev, encouraged by these initiative of the Health Department.
Every year, the Government comes up with various schemes to minimize the effect of the floods. The problem, predictably, arises at the implementation level.
The Charkha Development Communication network feels that if this initiative is successfully implemented this year, it can indeed set an example for disaster management in every flood affected region of the country. By Priya Khandelwal (ANI)
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