Dr. Purvish Parikh, Managing Director of AmeriCares India, reports from Bihar, which is slowly recovering from the worst India floods in more than 50 years. The poorest of India’s states, Bihar is struggling with more than 3 million people displaced by the disaster. Dr. Parikh surveyed health conditions at several flood-survivor camps, delivered medicines and treated children without access to a doctor.
I toured several camps in wake of the Bihar floods; this is only a glimpse of what survivors face. The Baneshwar Asthan camp was the most challenging and distant camp, more than 5 miles away from the nearest passable road.
Over rough terrain, dodging fallen trees and deep trenches, we traveled in a motorcycle convoy. In some parts of this village flood waters had still not receded and more rain made matters worse. The village’s washed out bridges were replaced by temporary bamboo bridges—the only means for the villagers to travel to the outside world.We found the survivors crowded in a temple. No tents existed. Some were living in makeshift shelters by the river. This area was particularly bereft with abject poverty—we could hardly tell the difference between flood survivors and normal village residents. Despite waiting for so long for the health care caravan, crowds stood patiently in the rain while medicines, food, water and clothes were distributed.
Some camps had no doctors within miles. What had been the Badhara Kothi Village was now a temporary shelter for 600 families. One health worker tended to the medical needs of the entire camp.
As there was no doctor at this camp, I examined and helped treat all of the children. Those with critical issues were referred to the nearest hospital. Vitamin supplements were distributed to the severely malnourished children to help stave off deficiencies that cause life-long disability and illness.
Our next steps will need to address critical issues including:
Despite the most daunting conditions, the Bihar flood survivors were incredibly gracious. They were grateful for help from AmeriCares and our partners. AmeriCares India is committed to long-term recovery of the flood survivors. I will dispatch additional reports as more information on our activities in the region becomes available.