For the flood-hit in Bihar, stoves and tools to help rebuild lives

November 5th, 2008 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 5 (IANS) The intensity of the Kosi river floods has waned and the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Bihar need help to set up their lives anew. A Delhi-based NGO is doing just that by distributing gas stoves, utensils, saws and wrenches to the flood victims.’Waapsi’, an initiative by Goonj, an NGO, to help those affected by the Kosi’s fury, provides the victims with the raw materials to start life again.

“What’s the point in just giving them rice and milk powder? It will feed them for a week but what after that? With these tools, like a gas stove, a kettle and some tea, they can start a tea shop and thereafter sustain their lives. That’s what Waapsi is all about,” Anshu Gupta, chairperson of Goonj, told IANS.

“Some people lost their tools and some can’t afford them. They have the skills but still sit hungry. By providing them with the tools and some raw material to start up, their lives can come back on track,” Gupta added.

In Supaul district, one of the flood- hit areas of Bihar, Goonj members distributed raw materials for 50 cups of tea to some people, 30 steel plates and raw materials for a street side restaurant (dhaba) to some others and tools to practise carpentry or run a bicycle repair shop to others.

“We have also distributed some kits to women containing trinkets like bangles, bindis and other make-up accessories,” he said.

According to Gupta, the challenges for those dependent on agriculture is immense, as the Kosi river while changing its course brought with it coarse sand and gravel, rendering their land barren.

The Kosi breached its embankment in upstream Nepal in August, flooding hundreds of villages in Bihar. More than three million people in over 1,000 villages were rendered homeless and over one million cattle affected by the floods.

About 990,000 people were evacuated to safer places and nearly 400,000 took shelter in over 300 relief camps in flood-affected areas, according to officials.

The calamity has claimed over 191 lives, according to official estimates. However, voluntary agencies peg the number higher.

“Ironically, the floods have actually come to the aid of some people in Bihar. Because of the disaster, they have come into focus and are being provided with help - after having lived in deplorable conditions for years,” Gupta said.

The ‘Waapsi’ programme which was taken to flood-hit places like Supaul, Saharsa and Madhepura in Bihar, will also be introduced in the flood-affected areas in Orissa, he said.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at azera.p@ians.in)

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