Assam Flood and Conflict Response 2012
Umesh Lagad, Public Health Engineer and RedR India Member, travelled to Assam to support Oxfam India's flood response program; here is a first hand account of what it is like to work in a disaster area.
Ethnic conflict between ethnic Bodo tribes and resident Muslims (Bengali speaking) in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) in North Eastern State of Assam turned violent with houses, shops and property being burnt and looted. Government imposed curfew with police and army deployment to stem violence. Except for some sporadic cases, situation has been stable now for last few days, with night curfew still on in the affected districts.
The displaced population is living in the congested and unhygienic condition. The people are either living in the school buildings or hospital buildings. Some of the camps are shifted to temporary make shift shelters provided by government. The Assam government is providing them the dry ration.
The shelter, water and sanitation facilities are very poor. Though PHE department has provided some hand pumps, toilets and bathrooms, their condition is very poor. In some of the camps, there are as much as 8 to 10 families living in single school room. In places where school building is not available, people are living in small tents without having ground sheets and sufficient tarpaulin for roofing.
The security situation is sensitive. The people from both the communities are afraid of their lives. The movement for them is restricted to the locations nearby their camps and that to in day time.
The security situation for the humanitarian workers is also sensitive. The travel time is from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm.
Because of the security situation, there is constraint in the selection and appoint local human resource (partner staff or local OXFAM staff). Since employing people of either community is a threat to their life or a threat to program. The selection should have to be made from the neutral ethnic community. The local staff from either community has not been able to go the camp of other community. So the appointment the staff from neutral community and building their capacities as far as possible and get the work done from them, is one of the first and basic challenge.
Since the security situation tight, there is constraint on the movement. One cannot stay outside the designated guest house or hotel. It increased the travel time and the effective time in the camp reduced. With limited time available and the available local human resource, one has to finish the task in camps as effectively as possible. It required quick analysis of the situation, design the interventions and activities, discuss with communities and finalize the action plan. It also involved quick analysis for the selection of the camp level human resource.
The time available for capacity building for camp level human resource and the camp level groups like WASH committees and user groups has remained too short. Since the people from one camp cannot move to another camp, the capacity building exercise has to be done in each camp separately.
The access to some of the camps is not possible without police escorts. Arranging for escorts and visiting those camps and finishing the work these is the most challenging task faced during operations in conflict response program.
With all these constraints effective delivery of resources and services to the people in unstable living conditions is a challenging experience.
In July of this year, RedR India Member, Parmeshwar Patil was deployed by Oxfam India to support the Assam flood response, specialising in water and sanitation.
Here are some recent pictures from his work.
Many schools have been converted in to relief camps like this one here
Photo Credit - Umesh Lagad/ RedR India/Oxfam India, Parmeshwar Patil/RedR India/Oxfam India. Pradeep Bharwad/ WATSAN Response, Afghanistan
RedR India Member, Trainer and Consultant, Pradeep Bharwad offers an insight to the work that he is involved in.
“Looking back on my time in South Asia and Africa, we did not struggle with the situations; the struggle was within us: blurred lines in emergency response, ambiguous morality of fellow agencies, constantly questioned motives within agencies and ultimately lives lost, and sometimes saved. These struggles, however separated us from those who struggled with these questions from the plush offices of HQ, whilst we were forced to deal with them every day. Sometimes simple things: just to get anything moving, just to get stuff to people who need it. Every single day brought a new struggle, against multiplying people with multiplying reasons as to why something cannot or should not be done. But it still needed to be done.
These assignments have been long over for me now, but they will always be there for the rest of my days. For those of us who do make it out of such situations, we have an obligation to teach to others what we know and to try with what's left of our lives to find a meaning to this kind of work.”
Recent Documents and Publications
Visit this page for our latest documentation, publications and other reports.
RedR India Live Facebook Updates
For interesting discussions between RedR India members, picture-stories from trainings and deployments, and interesting stories from the humanitairian world, visit our facebook page.