September 18 2008

Helping those most vulnerable - Newborns in SOS relief camps in India

18/09/2008 - After devastating floods in the state of Bihar in India, SOS Children's Villages is providing shelter, food, and medical services to those most in need in three relief camps. Pregnant women in particular have relied on SOS Children's Villages to tend to their specific needs.


Photo: Siddhartha Kaul
A mother and her newborn at an SOS relief camp - Photo: Siddharta Kaul
On August 18, the Kosi river breached its embankments in Nepal and submerged many inhabited areas, destroying homes and crops. After it changed its course, it wreaked havoc in Bihar, India, forcing countless people to flee their homes on very short notice, most of them taking only the bare essentials with them. Gopal, aged 69, has lost his home and his crops. His biggest worry, however, was his pregnant daughter, who needed medical attention quickly. After a few days on the run, Gopal found a government relief camp that took them in, but found the amenities to be insufficient.

Although the water level is gradually receding, 2,451 villages have been all but destroyed, and more than 300,000 people are still being given shelter in 342 relief camps in 17 districts that were affected by the flood. However, many of these camps are insufficiently funded, causing many people to go in search of better conditions. Pregnant women in particular are desperate for adequate medical services, and SOS Children's Villages' good reputation has caused many of them to seek out SOS relief camps, according to Siddhartha Kaul, continental director of SOS Children's Villages in Asia.

Photo: Siddharta Kaul
A medical team in one of the SOS camps - Photo: Siddhartha Kaul

One of them was Gopal's daughter, who gave birth to her daughter on the roadside before SOS co-workers from the nearby SOS relief camp of Adarsh Madhya Vidyalaya (Adarsh Middle School) in Purnia heard what had happened and took her to the camp for the medical staff to look after her, in addition to the 25 more expectant mothers already at the camp.

A total of 1,745 people are being provided with shelter, nutrition, clothing, sanitation and medical facilities at the three SOS relief camps in the areas affected by the Kosi river flood. Two of these have been set up in school buildings in Belouri, Purnia; the most recently established camp is the one at Baharia in the district of Araria, which is providing food for 315 people from 79 families, all from the destroyed village of Kalabadhua.