INDIA Childhood interrupted

by Nalini N Paul, CARE India

When I visited the village of Chabolu, I was struck by the wide spread destruction caused by the flooding of river Thungabhadra and Krishna. This village is situated between both the rivers and the backwaters have caused massive destruction. Acres of paddy fields are submerged in water and all the houses have collapsed.

Walking through the village I saw a big group of children of all ages sitting desolately on a high land under the baking sun with very little protection. On speaking to them I came to realise how much havoc the floods had caused in their young innocent minds.

“We are scared to go into the village,” said Pavitra. “Our houses have collapsed and there is nowhere to sit or play.

“Our parents have sent us up here for fear of infection, as every thing is rotting,” said Ratlamma. I met many children like them, who have no option but to do as their parents have asked them. Even though schools have re-opened, they cannot go, as they have lost all their books and school uniforms. New books and uniforms figure very low on their parents’ list of priorities right now. Many children have a board exam to prepare for this year, and unless they are provided with books very soon they will end up losing an entire academic year.

I also met Shyamala, the Angawadi wadi worker of the village. (Anganwadi is a government-sponsored child-care and mother-care centre in India. It caters to children in the 0-6 age group. The word means "courtyard shelter" in Hindi.) The Anganwadi centre has been completely destroyed by the floods. Toys, books, rations are all rotting.

In the initial phase of the emergency response, CARE is distributing hygiene kits, soap, floor mat and bed sheets, and water purification supplies to 5,000 families (30,000 people) in villages in the worst-affected districts of Andhra Pradesh.

The damage is huge and providing relief is the top priority for the government and aid agencies. It seems like a long road ahead before things will return to normalcy for the many children in the flood-affected areas of Andhra Pradesh. This is indeed a time when we need to come together and support agencies like CARE to help these children get back to schools and get over this big calamity.