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Jun 27, 2013

Saving lives on sharp turning roads

Bipul Borah

Posted June 27, 2013 by Bipul Borah

I am writing this while travelling on a road with sharp turnings. We are on a truck going for relief distribution to people in the affected villages of Guptkashi and Gauri Kund. The food ration that we plan to distribute consists of rice, dal, wheat, oil, spices and candle and match boxes.

Team members from Oxfam India and its partner Jan Vikas Sansthan are working 18 to 20 hours a day to make the food ration packets ready for distribution.

The Oxfam team along with its partners is continuing their assessment in parallel in Jakholi, Ukhimoth and Agastyamuni blocks in Rudraprayag district to understand the unmet needs of the community. Partner Himalayan Paryavaran Shiksha Sanstha (HPSS) is doing an assessment in Uttarkashi district.

The next phase of the response by Oxfam will be based on the unmet needs of the affected communities in remote areas. Many villages are still inaccessible by road. The complex situation, difficult terrain, frequent rains and eventual landslides are making assessment and relief work difficult and decision making tough for the agencies.

We are making every effort to reach out to inaccessible and more affected villages. So we are careful in taking a decision for targeting so that the assistance is being received by those who need the most. Weather is unpredictable and so our travel to the targeted villages is getting hampered.

There are villages intact and unaffected but most of the residents have lost their near and dear ones. There are families who have lost everything -- life, assets, stored grains, documents, properties, houses, assets and their belongings. Prices of essential commodities have spiralled here.

Based on the situation, we might be required to go for cash distribution as well.

The current urgent needs however are food, safe water, candle and torch, cash and shelter materials (tarpaulins, ground sheet and tents) so that people who have lost their homes in the villages can set up temporary shelters. They are currently living in relatives or neighbour's houses.

It's raining these days making things difficult for us. Rescue operation has ended. The Government now is focusing on carrying out an assessment of the scale of devastation. Food ration has just started coming. I have seen some government relief trucks coming on my way towards affected areas. Government has distributed Rs 2700 as cash dole recently.

PS: I am travelling now and cannot use data card. So sending from my mobile.?

Bipul Borah is the Humanitarian Response and DRR Co-ordinator for Oxfam India.

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