INDIA Fear of water borne diseases in flood zones

 Emergency Response
 3rd Sep 2008

SUPAUL, INDIA (September 3, 2008) – CARE’s emergency team in the flood-affected Supaul district of Bihar state warns that standing pools of water created by the floodwaters provide a breeding ground for water-borne disease and malaria. CARE is one of the agencies coordinating with the government to provide food and emergency supplies to survivors in one of the worst floods to hit India in the past 50 years.

“Water-borne disease is a huge risk now, and we are already getting reports of diarrhea cases,” said Balaji Singh, Emergency Coordinator for CARE India.

Ongoing monsoon rains are hampering relief efforts, and CARE emergency workers report the floodwaters are rising again and spreading to new areas. As the floodwaters move through, they leave behind pools of standing water, which are a breeding ground for water-borne diseases and mosquitoes that spread malaria.

In coordination with the government, CARE is setting up a camp for as many as 5,000 people in one of the worst-affected areas of Supaul district. CARE will prepare meals and provide safe drinking water, clothes and emergency supplies, and implement a cash-for-work program where adults will receive payment for working in the camp.

CARE is also providing medical assistance to flood survivors, particularly children and pregnant or lactating women who are more vulnerable to water-borne illness. CARE is preparing to distribute safe pregnancy kits for pregnant women and mothers with newborns, and hygiene kits that include supplies specifically for women. Bihar is one of the poorest states in India and medical facilities were poor even before the floods hit.

“Pregnant women are at great risk,” said Singh. “They are walking through contaminated floodwaters, with no food or clean water, to reach relief camps. It’s crucial that they have access to nourishing food and clean drinking water as soon as possible – pregnant women and small children can’t tolerate going this long without food. Once they reach the camps, it’s a question of safe delivery and treatment.”

CARE’s emergency teams are also reporting a significant local response, where anyone not affected by the flooding is doing what they can to assist with the overall relief efforts. More than three million people have been affected by the flooding, and it may be as long as four months before displaced families can return home.

About CARE: CARE has been operating in India since 1950. CARE’s ongoing programs include maternal and child health, nutrition, micro-finance, education, economic empowerment and emergency response.

Media contact:
Melanie Brooks, Media and Communications Coordinator (Geneva)
mobile +41.79.590.3047 e-mail

Nalini Nupur Paul, Communications Manager (Bihar)
mobile +91.98.7354.9745 e-mail

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