Guwahati, July 18: In any war or disaster (natural or manmade), it is the children and women who face the worst impact of almost all tragedies. It does not mean that men are not vulnerable to difficult situations, but compared to them most of the victims of tragedies are unfortunately women and children.
A similar situation is emerging in flood-hit Assam. As the flood situation in the state continues to remain grim for almost two months, it is the children of the state who are facing the worst effect of it.
Right from the number of children killed in the current wave of floods to displaced kids languishing in relief camps, safety of children remains a major concern till the flood waters don't recede in the northeastern state.
According to reports, the death toll due to floods has risen to 65 on Monday. However, authorities maintain that the flood water is receding in several parts of the state. Unfortunately, the situation is anything but good.
A sizeable number of flood victims are said to be children. As per the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), out of the 65 reported deaths, 23 are below 14 years.
"Of the 65 flood-related deaths in the state so far, 23 are below 14 years. We are collecting data on the affected children," the project officer of ASDMA in Guwahati, Rajib Prakash Baruah, told The Telegraph.
However, officials of the ASDMA maintain that they are yet to find out the exact number of women and children being affected by the floods.
Around 4,000 villages, covering more than 25 lakh people in 29 of the state's 33 districts, have been impacted by the floods.
An international NGO which works for children of Assam stated that more than six lakh children have been affected in this year's floods.
"During a natural disaster like flood, children are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation as their parents remain busy either in managing a shelter or food. Many children drown in floodwaters. Nutritional needs of the newborn, lactating mothers and pregnant women are affected due to lack of proper supply of baby food in relief camps.
Schools get damaged or eroded every year and sometimes remain shut for months, affecting children's education in the long run," Chitta Priyo Sadhu, general manager of Save the Children, told The Telegraph.
The NGO is currently distributing relief items to flood-affected children.
"The government agencies and civil society should work out child-specific relief mechanisms so that children are protected, provided proper food and the impact on their education is minimised," Sadhu said.
"In 2003, we had launched a project in which child-friendly spaces are facilitated in some relief camps during floods every year. Under it, children are provided both play and study materials.
We engage two facilitators in each centre. In 2014, we trained district disaster management officials in 23 districts on how to ensure child protection. Such child-friendly space can be facilitated by the government in every flood-prone district," Deba Prasad Sarma, project co-ordinator of the NGO in Assam, said.
Chiranjeeb Kakoty, director of the Northeast Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses, another NGO, had written to the ASDMA last week, seeking details on the number of flood-affected children, pregnant women and the elderly for specific relief measures.