Oct 22, 2013

Helping Our Partner: Cyclone Recovery in Odisha, India

A near super-cyclone with winds exceeding 200 km/hr struck our partner community in Odisha on Saturday, October 12th. Fortunately, the government of India and Odisha were well prepared to handle the disaster, and most people were evacuated, resulting in only 32 deaths in the state. However, the damage to property and crops was great, and this will absolutely affect people’s lives for months and years to come.

Out of the nearly 200 villages that GlobeMed at the University of South Carolina’s partner NGO Alternative for Rural Movement (ARM) is involved with, 112 were affected severely by the cyclone. ARM has been a key player in the aftermath of the disaster; however, ARM lacks sufficient resources to deal with the aftermath of this disaster, and greatly needs the help of donors at this time.

Key Points:

» 770,000 USD needed for rebuilding; this is approximately 47,740,000 Indian Rupees (exchange rate, 62 IR per 1 USD)
» 24,872 homes damaged in Balasore
» Short term needs: medication for water and sanitation related diseases, food shortages, temporary shelters, mosquito nets, blankets, and clothing
» Long term needs: destroyed crops and barren farmland for two years or more, destroyed homes that need to be rebuilt, replacement of possessions and utensils such as fishing nets, sewing machines, agricultural tools that are key to livelihood

 ARM staff has been helping to host food kitchens, build temporary shelters, run medical camps, and distribute water purification tablets. Thousands of people are displaced, living in crowded conditions in temporary shelters that are little more than large tents. Temporary shelters (which may be home for people for months to come) have no provisions for sanitation and human waste disposal. Much of the well water is contaminated, having been submerged during the cyclone; only the wells located on high ground have been spared. Because of these conditions, cholera, diarrheal disease, gastroenteritis, and malaria is running rampant among the temporary shelters. Medication for these illnesses and others is in short supply.

In a community where people have so little, where they hang on to stability by a single thread, this cyclone was devastating. It requires many people to begin again. This cyclone has come after another super cyclone in 1999, and now, Rajendra, the Founder of ARM says, “the villagers are asking for a permanent solution for these disasters , one that will not leave them devastated and displaced.”

Sachi, an ARM staff member who formerly worked in disaster management for the Indian government, told us this summer that disasters can take years to fully recover from economically. This cyclone is no exception as 25,070 families are affected in the immediate area of ARM (the Baliapal Block), 480,000 people are affected across the district of Balasore (which consists of eight blocks), 1,098 homes are fully destroyed, and 3,916 are partially destroyed. Distribution of goods and services is extremely difficult in rural Orissa, because the dirt roads become gigantic mud puddles and are nearly impossible to travel on. With the season’s crops destroyed, many villages are left without income. Even worse, for the next two years, the salt left behind by the seawater will dehydrate plants and lead to poor crop yields. Re-building homes will be one of the most difficult and expensive long-term challenges. Recovery from this disaster in just ARM’s area will cost more than $770,000 USD, which is over four times ARM’s annual operating budget. Some of this funding will be provided by the government and ARM’s international donors, but this truly a community in need of global support.

This money will fund temporary shelters, medical camps, clothing, blankets, mosquito nets, sanitation and first aid, school books, permanent shelter, seed and agricultural repair, fishing nets, supply chain and distribution logistics. ARM will be monitoring and evaluating seven days every month. A midterm evaluation of the entire project is planned for January 2014.

It is absolutely heartbreaking to think that the kind villagers we met during our GROW internship this summer, who let us into their homes and communities with smiling faces, and the curious and playful children that trailed behind us are left without homes and income. These wonderful people are left vulnerable to rampant disease, and that the next couple of years will be a challenge for them because of this disaster. These families are concerned with how they will feed their children, where they will stay, how they will rebuild their villages, and, of course, the fear that this might happen again.

We are grateful that we can provide help to our wonderful friends in Odisha in some way; through the GlobeMed national network, campus mobilization, and social media, we hope that we can help our friends re-build their lives and regain their dignity. Please take the time to donate to ARM here.

If we can get people to donate at least $10 and spread the word, we can make quite an impact. (Note: Give Foundations are tax-exempt 501c(3) organizations)

Written by Runjhun Bhatia, co-president of GlobeMed at the University of South Carolina, which partners with Alternative for Rural Movement in Odisha, India.


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