Flood survivors remain separated by Kosi waters

September 25th, 2008 - 11:09 am ICT by IANS  

Supaul (Bihar), Sep 25 (IANS) They ran for their lives as the waters of the Kosi river came raging into their homes. Over a month later, many of Bihar’s three million homeless still can’t find their loved ones. The government has now started an initiative focussed on helping those separated by the worst floods in the state in over 50 years.Manu Devi, who is now in a government relief camp in this small town, lost her husband as the Kosi breached a series of embankments at the India-Nepal border and changed its course. But she is in denial. “He left me and my child at the railway station and went back to the house to retrieve our belongings. He will come back soon,” says Manu Devi.

Manu’s brother-in-law knows the fact. He had gone looking for the missing man and found that the house had collapsed. “I have seen my brother’s body but she does not believe me,” he says helplessly.

Manu’s baby girl has developed a serious ear infection even as she spends her time searching for her husband. Neighbours are concerned for the baby girl as they feel that Manu is not giving her the attention the child needs.

Eight-year-old Reena Kumari was rescued by her neighbours from a hill top in Triveniganj in this district, after they found the petrified girl stranded and alone. She is yet to find her parents.

Twelve-year-old Anita Kumari has also lost her parents. She is living with relatives who cannot really afford to look after her for a long time. Her tears well up as she says: “I’m fine. I’m very well looked after. But no one is looking for my parents. I don’t even have a picture of them.”

Alarmed by the large number of family separation complaints of this kind, the state government has now launched an initiative to reunite separated families and assist communities in creating a supportive and protective environment around flood victims, especially the women and children.

The initiative by the Department of Social Welfare is called Sambal (support) and is being supported by Unicef as well as 10 NGOs active at the state and national levels. Among these are Save the Children, Indian Red Cross and Jeevika - Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project.

Sambal aims to trace families separated by the floods and reunite them. It also aims to prevent trafficking and abuse of flood victims, and to provide them psychosocial support in the worst-affected districts - Araria, Supaul, Saharsa, Madhepura and Purnea.

Over 400 volunteers have been mobilised to work in camps and communities. They are creating a database of separated families, which has already started showing results - some separated victims have found their relatives.

The initiative is paying special attention to children and has a plan to rehabilitate them if their relatives cannot be found.

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