U'khand flood: Women and children bear the brunt of nature

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Bangalore, June 27: The news of a 3-year old girl found abandoned by the pilgrims in Gaurikund has raised serious concerns over the situation of women and children stuck in the hills of Uttarakhand. NGOs supporting the rescue teams here said that about 1.5 lakh people have been rescued, out of which half are children and women of all age groups. These people, reportedly, need immediate medical help and humanitarian aid.

"Thousands of children, pregnant women and old people are in desperate need of food and medical attention. Dozens of villages have been cut off by the flood waters, and homes, livestock and possessions have been swept away. They are running out of food, and we know children are already dying because they can't reach medical help," Save the Children's India director of programmes Latha Caleb said.

As the relief process gets hindered by incessant rains and landslides, reaching out to these people becomes increasingly difficult. It is not the stranded alone that face a crisis situation, but also remote villages that are cut off due to road blocks. Huge man power is required to reach out to these people.

Trauma is another critical problem that the children and the women face. Seeing people die in front of their eyes is a horrendous experience for all of us; imagine the impact it has on a child who might even have seen some of his family members perish in the flood waters. Dead bodies are lying everywhere; the rot and the distress can be easily felt everywhere. No imagination is required to understand what the stranded are going through in the hills of Uttarakhand.

Pregnant or lactating women face an altogether different problem-that of privacy. With very little space and a massive crowd surrounding them, the daily routine of hygiene is a challenge for them. Add to it, the lack of water, food and medicine. Stranded for close to 11 days, these women are low on diet and unable to feed their babies. 

3-year old girl

Women at the peak of  pregnancy need extra care. But those stranded have little or nothing of it. "It is natural that they have nothing left with them, except for the clothes they are wearing; so one can imagine the unhygienic situation they are in," said Caleb.

There have been instances where army doctors helped rescued pregnant women during child birth, but the extent to which they can be taken care of is a matter of serious concern. "It would be wrong to accuse the Army or the Air force in such cases since they have a large crowd to cater to, which needs time and dedication. Hence, we planned a makeshift camp, which would cater to these women only, until they are sent back home," informed Caleb.

A disaster is always followed by an epidemic. This time, it is diarrhoea, pneumonia. A lot of children and women have already started complaining of stomach ache and loose motions. Villages that cannot be reached have reported deaths too, while a few of the stranded have already succumbed to the severity of the diseases, before help could reach them.

With the rescue operations expected to be over in the next 2 days, the state and the Centre have a lot more left to think about in the coming years. Some of them being revival of tourism, unemployment in the region, rehabilitation, and many more. Just praying for a better future is not enough in this case, we have to join hands to help Uttarakhand live again.

Meanwhile, the 3-year old girl who is being treated for her fractured legs at a Dehradun hospital is not able to tell anything about herself or her parents.

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