Naba Kishor Pujari
The landfall of Phailin and five days of incessant rains had left Odisha in a very desolate situation. The double blow made a trail of damage and destruction to lives and properties of lakhs of population. Women and children became the worst victims in these disasters. Though the role of media was laudable for disseminating information on the cyclone and floods to the people, but it did not serve the purpose in many villages like Brahmanidei as they had no information about the havoc.
Government officials acted fast by evacuating 8,73,643 people in Odisha and 65,700 in Andhra Pradesh before the cyclone hit the coast, thus reducing drastically the human casualty. The official figures peg human casualty at 27 as of date.
While, the threat of an imminent flood is looming large, in two districts of Odisha, our emergency response teams are on the ground assessing the extent of damage to land, livelihoods and shelter.
The Government and the responsible Authorities had done a tremendous job in averting large scale casualty and now are engaged in relief and rehabilitation work. Our staff on the ground, while rapidly assessing the situation, is also helping the local vulnerable communities access the relief measures of the government.
We must also tell you that the tale of destruction being reported back to us, by our people on ground zero, is devastating to say the least. In the state of Odisha, 14514 villages in and over 80 lakh people in 12 districts of Odisha are affected and 2,34,000 kutcha houses are partially or totally damaged. 500,000 Hectares of Agricultural land are destroyed and the losses are estimated to the tune of 2400 crores. From the initial reports, some of our project areas in both Andhra Pradesh and Odisha are severely affected and 350 of the children linked to sponsorship programme are also affected. In coastal Vishakapattanam 600 families from the traditional community are severly affected – they lost their boats, fishing nets and dry stocks to the massive cyclone.
ActionAid with its long term partner organizations did a Rapid assessments of the damages in the worst affected districts of AP & Odisha are going on, including the project areas, despite the flood warnings being issued.The focus was to assess the extent to which source of livelihood have been affected – for both fishing and farming communities. Immediate intervention component
Intervention Components –
Food support – immediately after the very severe cyclonic storm Phailin, the village was completely cut off from communication and thus was provided with food provisions mentioned below:
1 and 1/2 kgs
1 packet containing 10 candles
1 pack containing 10 packets
Tiger Milk Biscuit 2 packets
Apart from that, a Non-Food Item(NFI) kits were distributed by ActionAid with the support from Department for International Development (DFID) to address the immediate and basic need of the affected populace for their survival and sustainance. Below is the list of items what contained in NFI Kit:
Tarpaulin for roof
Tarpaulin Ground sheet
Rope for tarpaulin
Sanitary Napkin cloth
Water purifying tablets
Plastic Bucket with lid
Process of Intervention
To identify and monitor NFI distribution in the selected villages, we formed a Phailin response committee. The members of the committee (7 members) 4 women and 3 men helped identify the families which required support most urgently and helped the village volunteers in the distribution of food and emergency relief. The beneficiaries list in the village was put up for display after the selection by the committee and the names of the members of the committee was also put on display. After the relief was distributed, a social audit was conducted in the village. The objective behind putting women in the front was to give them a platform where they can participate in the decision making process of the village as well as flourish their leadership. Though the facilitation was provided by implementing agencies, but it was them who have to decide upon the functional modalities. In order to increase ownership among women, the relief was given in the names of women.
The village committee decided who are the worst affected and accordingly they decided the beneficiaries. The village committee maintains all formalities like sitting in a frequent interval, maintaining a register where every decision taken is lawfully passed in the resolution. The social mobilisers, appointed by the implementing partners are instrumental in the facilitation of Social audit whereas the committee members take the lead. The names and number of beneficiaries are hanged in the meeting place for universal use.
Some Impact stories from ground
Brahmanidei is one such village of Ganjam district where Phailin and heavy rain had its worst affect. It is a small tribal village of 19 houses and a total of 101 populations. Brahmanidei is located alongside the forest and it is completely dominated by Saura tribes. The village is a small one in terms of population but not so were their agonies during the disasters. All the houses of village were wrecked and became unlivable. Five houses got totally damaged and other fourteen houses were ravaged severely due to the Cyclone Phailin and flood.The only road to the village was cut off due to flood.
The local administration provided five hundred rupees cash and fifty kilogram rice to all the affected populace but it was much later and also it could hardly contribute to compensate their loss. Altogether, they were in the losing front to deal with the disaster.
Impact story- Her smile counts
Name: Laxmi Sabar
Spouse: Budhia Sabar
Village: Brahmani Dei, GP-Pandiripada, Block-Polasara, Dist-Ganjam
Mrs. Laxmi Sabar (40) has been living in Brahmanidei village since 20 years since she got married to Budhia. She has not attended school ever in her life. Like other villagers, the episode of Phailin and inundation was left many untold scars in her memory.
Four months have passed but still Laxmi gets shocked if somebody asks her about the disaster. During the landfall of Phailin, her husband (Budhia) was not with them in the village as he had migrated to Hyderabad. Laxmi was all alone with her kids when Phailin started its devastation.
Laxmi recollects “as the blow of the cyclone gradually grew furious, I got nervous. I was totally out of my mind. My children were asleep at that moment. The situation was totally insufferable; not only for me but for all the villagers. Due to the incessant rain, cold wave started. As we had already lost our clothes, so it was difficult for us to deal with the cold wave. We had no foods to eat. Even, we had no utensils to store water. For three to four days, we were in starvation. Thank God, we managed to save our lives” Laxmi said.
Despite the flood warnings being issued, a team of ActionAid arrived at the ground zero. They discussed with the villagers and did a rapid assessment of the damage of shelter, livestock, trees and farmlands. Subsequently, a seven membered village disaster response committee was formed in Brahmanidei. It was also highlighted that at least five members will be reserved for females in this committee. The background behind the process was also to increase the participation of women in the decision making platforms as well as to initiate the process to ensure their ownership in community resources. Laxmi was chosen as the President of the committee.
The members of the committee decided that all the households have been affected severely and thus it was finalized that NFI Kits will be distributed to all. This apart, all the kits were provided in the names of the women of the each household. This was to ensure the ownership of women in productive resources.
Laxmi recalls “The blanket is a great relief for us as it is helping us to protect from severe cold. The Tarpaulin is being used like an alternative roof as it helps us to protect from sunlight and rain-water.
The solar light has also helped us to a great extent. Our village is not connected with electricity. Now, the solar light is being used as the alternative source of light in night time while cooking or performing other household works. We are also taking it to outside when we move out to anywhere at night.
This apart, we are using halogen tablets in drinking water, using bucket to store water. It would have been hard for us to restore our immediate basic needs if we had not been given any assistance,” Laxmi concluded.
Solar light brought smile in the village
Punjiama is a far-flung tribal village in Pandiripada Grampanchyat of Polasara Block in Ganjam district having 24 households. Everyone in the village has experienced their lives and properties being messed up due to the Phailin and its subsequent flood. Thatched houses were blown away, walls of the houses got collapsed, and household articles as well as food grains were destroyed and so on.
The only road that connects to the village was cut off due to the inundation and it was challenging to make contacts with the people as no cellular network was working. The worsening affects of cyclone and flood made the community more vulnerable. To respond immediately, a team from Dalit Adhikar Sangathan (DAS) immediately visited to the village and arranged some foods. (Dalit Adhikar Sangathan (DAS), a network of NGOs and people’s organisation has been working in this village for ensuring rights of the dalits and tribals with the support of ActionAid) Later, the villagers were provided with a Non Food Items (NFI) kit as emergency humanitarian support.
The support in terms of NFI distribution was mainly intended to address their immediate and basic need to cope up with the disaster. But the kit helped them in multiple ways and remained causative to bring smiles among the beneficiaries of the village. Though poles and wires have been installed in the village but still electricity has not yet connected. Mostly they use kerosene lamp for lightening purpose in the evening. They usually take dinner early in the evening and go to bed just to meet the scarcity of kerosene. DAS with the support of ActionAid and UKAid provided a solar light to each household as a part of the NFI kit. Now this has brought change in the village in terms of access to light for cooking, consuming food, organizing village level meetings and studying of school going children in their houses.
Malli Sabar, a woman of around 35 year of the village says recalls her past“ we were facing difficulties especially in the evening time while cooking and doing other household works. Our day ends when the sun sets. Now, we can do work in the evening, gossip with the neighbor outside our house and bringing water from the tube well using the solar light provided by you. Now-a-days, my children are studying in the evening rather than going to bed the most early. The solar light has helped me in reducing my distress.”