'Akha' a pioneer in administering relief to flood-hit Assam

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Guwahati, Sep 13 (UNI) When the Dhemaji, Dibrugarh and Lakhipur districts in Assam were submerged by flood water, a tiny ship-'Akha'- transporting medical equipment, was not only the last hope for thousands but also drew the attention of the world's top technical experts.

The use of locally-designed ships and boats for health services in Upper Assam and mobilisation of communities in partnership for better health facilities and improved livelihood was the subject of a lively presentation and discussion on Tuesday at the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington DC, led by journalist and Managing Trustee of the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES) Sanjoy Hazarika.

The 90-minute presentation on the C-NES's health initiative has been recognised by the Centre, state government and international development agencies as innovative and crucial for reaching marginalised people, including Assam's river island dwellers. It saw discussions on government partnerships, effectiveness of the strategy, involvement of the beneficiaries as well as sustainability of the projects and impact of conflict on governance.

The C-NES developed vessels with OPD facilities on board which transported medical teams, with the support of the state health department, district administrations of Dibrugarh, Dhemaji and Tinsukia and the UNICEF, to the island dwellers regularly, imparting services, including child immunisation, Japanese Encephalitis immunisation, regular check-ups and preventive treatments.

Besides, regular health camps were held during the floods as well as other seasons which successfully reached innumerable Sapori dwellers in the 14 islands on the river Brahmputra.

''This is something that we keep talking about both at the government level as well as by international organisations. However, the ship Akha and its team have shown how a simple idea, when taken to its logical conclusion through commitment and strategic partnerships with the government and other communities, can bring amazing results,'' WRI Vice-President David Jhirad said.

The WRI is regarded as one of the world's leading thinktanks on environmental issues.

Mr Jhirad, who had invited Mr Hazarika to make the presentation, is also the designate vice-president of the Rockefeller Foundation and is a specialist on climate change.

He also worked as a senior advisor to the Energy Department in the Clinton administration.

Mr Hazarika announced that the Centre, through the state government and the National Rural Health Mission, had agreed to support more health ships to reach thousands of river island dwellers in Assam.

''We have been working to reach the displaced and flood-hit people as part of our regular outreach programmes and even upscaled our activities,'' he said.

Besides health, the C-NES works in other sectors, including governance, participatory planning, improving livelihood and addressing environmental concerns, such as protection of the endangered Gangetic dolphin, the Xihu.

UNI

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