Floods Do Not Wash Away Hopes

Author Portrait_Rubina Raut, Sponsorship Program Officer
Rubina-Raut

Sponsorship Program Officer

Save the Children in Nepal-Bhutan

January 8, 2018

The August rains this year in Nepal proved to be one of the harshest the country has seen in years.

The day started just like any other day in Saptari, one of the sponsorship supported areas in the eastern region of Nepal – bright and sunny. But then, the sky was engulfed with dark clouds and wind, signs of approaching rain. The weather forecast warned of heavy rainfall. However, many, including me, went home in the evening with little thought about the impending damage. The rain got worse as the day went on.

A little before dawn, people chattering woke me up. Everyone, young and old, was wide awake. The water leaking through the closed doors was pooling inside my house, and my neighbor’s houses. As we waited for the relief of daybreak, we piled up furniture to achieve some higher ground for our valuables.

As the light broke through, my hometown was looking more like a deep pond. The magnitude of destruction was immeasurable.

Children in Saptari taking refuge in temporary shelters while their homes are submerged in flood waters.
Children in Saptari taking refuge in temporary shelters while their homes are submerged in flood waters.

The flood washed away homes, belongings and crops as well, damaging families’ livelihoods that were meant to last them throughout the year, in a series of continuous downpours. Homes, schools, hospitals and health posts were partially submerged in water. Everyone was searching for high elevation to take refuge. Families brought along with themselves anything they could save – most clutched their precious goats and cattle, their only source of livelihood left. It was really disheartening to see people, especially young carefree children, not having access to clean drinking water during this crisis.

Despite the damage, some of the children still seemed sunny and upbeat, as they swam and played, trying to fish in the new pools of flooded water.

Save the Children helped distribute tarps to around 1,000 affected households, to ensure families have a shelter above them, and shared over 800 hygiene kits – containing items like soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, water purifiers, underwear and towels. Our goal was to ensure children could remain safe from preventable diseases, the prevalence of which rises dramatically during such natural disasters, because water can become contaminated easily.

Floods consuming a small village.
Floods consuming a small village.

Children, among others, are more at risk in disasters like these. Physical as well as psychological shelter is an urgent need for children during emergencies. In addition to health kits and support in finding shelters, almost 500 children were provided student kits including learning materials like books and notebooks, replacing lost school supplies as the flood in Saptari gradually dries up.

Without sponsorship, none of this relief would have been possible. From my neighbors and I, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Do you have a family plan for when emergencies strike? Being prepared and organized goes a long way in times of crises. How does your family weather big storms?

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Canada floods: I’m one of the 100,000 displaced.



C.malone_small

Colleen Malone, SCI Humanitarian Adviser

Canmore, Alberta, Canada

June 28, 2013


 

June 20  

Following the news of massive flooding in Canmore, in
the Rocky Mountains just west of my hometown,

Deserted_downtown

Deserted downtown. Emergency vehicles, stragglers, me standing in rain with sleeping baby in carrier.

Calgary. It is headed our way –
in fact it is arriving faster than anyone expected. We walk down to the bridge
crossing the Bow River just one block from our house; this morning the water
level was at the 2 feet marker, and in the afternoon it is at 7 feet.  We talk to a neighbour about the huge
flooding in 2005, and she says our neighbourhood didn’t have to evacuate then.
My visiting mother raises her eyebrows when I suggest perhaps she shouldn’t
sleep in the basement tonight. I am in the park playing with my 15 month old
daughter when I see pairs of police going door to door and a passerby shows me
the flyer they are handing out: we are under a mandatory immediate evacuation
order. We are told just to pack for a night. We hurriedly throw stuff in bags
and the baby wears the new tiny backpack we had happened to buy for her the day
before; she looks like she is heading out on an adventure.

 June 21

Donated_items

So much donated stuff and so many volunteer hours, but many needs remain for Siksika families.

Waking up early in the downtown hotel room we were
lucky enough to snag, we notice the power go out. And then the back up power.
About 6 hotel staff shine their cell phones as I walk down 8 flights of pitch
black stairs with the baby. Do we stay in a hotel with no power or look for
somewhere else to stay? Every hotel we call is fully booked. As the baby naps
in her carrier, I stand in the pouring rain on a deserted downtown street; a
few other stragglers here and there.  Emergency
vehicles are the only ones on the move. The river pathways – and the streets – are
filling with water. Nothing is open, nowhere to eat. Downtown is being
evacuated.

 

June 22

A friend is out
of town and is letting us stay in her house. We are among about 100,000 people
who have been displaced from their homes. Evacuation centres are sheltering around
1,500 people – everyone else is like us, benefiting from the kindness of
friends and families. Our friend has a baby a bit older than my daughter. My
daughter is delighted with all the other baby’s toys and books, and I am so
relieved to be able to put her safely to sleep in a safe, quiet, comfortable
place. But I want to go home. I see pictures from our neighbourhood – the
pathway just across the street from our house has disappeared under about 13
feet of water. The Bow is rushing with just slightly less than the force and
volume of Niagara Falls.

 

June 23

The rain has
cleared at last and the air is fresh and crisp, but any thoughts of playing in
the park across

Flooded_house

Like a tsunami: one of many houses just like it across Calgary's flood damaged 'hoods.

the street are dashed by the swarming, huge clouds of
mosquitoes. Starting to get a bit stir crazy. Baby watches her Dada, Mama and
Nana all transfixed by their smart phones, iPads and the TV news. All her
caregivers are distracted and it isn’t good for anyone. While we are pretty calm
on the outside, I can feel stress building with each day away from home. I am
addicted to Twitter updates and spend all day trying to find news of our
neighbourhood and when we will be allowed home. Part of my neighbourhood is literally
slipping into the Bow and no one has power. So frustrated by the lack of even
an estimated timeframe of when it might be safe to return – we need to leave
our friend’s house so where should we go? For how long?

 

June 24

Flood_clothes

Monochrome #YYC: husband's clothes after day gutting mucky, water-logged basements of friends & strangers.

Home! The
evacuation order has been lifted for our neighbourhood. We have no power but
our house is amazingly, thankfully dry. Others are not so lucky – our
neighbourhood is a mess. The streets are all covered in river mud and chalky dust
blows through the air. The river is still dangerously high and sink holes are
appearing in the roads and sidewalks. Volunteers are dragging out the contents
of neighbours’ basements and throwing them into dumpsters. One neighbour asks
me why we store away precious things instead of enjoying them. She is cheerful
and bizarrely hospitable, but her voice catches briefly as she pitches her
water damaged family treasures in the dumpster. As is the case in every neighbourhood
every day, free food and coffee is being provided to volunteers and flood
victims, and businesses with trucks, dumpsters and pumps show up to help. We take
our daughter to the only place open for dinner, the local truck stop, with some
friends and their baby. The two girls ‘wow’ and ‘beep beep’ at the model train
running around the restaurant while the adults share flood stories. We put our
daughter to sleep at last in her own bed, and light candles in our cold dark
house. The normally busy neighbourhood is entirely quiet except for the
constant hum of pumps and generators.

June 25

Although we are
home, all is not back to normal. My husband’s office is closed, as much of the

Flood_pathway

Pathway and park less than 1 block from our house disappears downhill under about 13ft of water.

downtown core remains without power. He is helping friends and strangers gut
their basements, right back to the studs, slipping through thick river muck. I
am heading out to do an assessment for Save the Children of the Siksika First
Nation, a reserve east of Calgary that was devastated by the floods. My
daughter is not herself; she clings to me at every chance and wants ‘up, up.’
We are trying to get her back into her routine but me leaving her behind,
instead of simply going into my home office, is not part of that routine. She
has to be distracted while I leave, feeling terrible. I’m told she cries for me
whenever she sees my empty office.

 

June 26

Flood_food_truck

Wherever you turn in affected communities, generous restos and food trucks serving free food.

Out for a second
day with the Siksika First Nation. It strikes me as I prepare to leave that
while it is a much too common experience for so many of our staff around the
world, this is the first time I’ve headed out for a day of emergency assessment
or response from my own home. The Siksika are quite literally overwhelmed by in
kind donations: the sportsplex that is serving as an evacuation centre has
mountains of donated clothes, toiletries, toys, baby supplies, and bottled water.
But the kids are climbing the walls – there is nothing to do, nowhere to go. No
running water, no showers, lines of porto-potties. Fortuitously and
coincidentally, a company from Calgary has donated and set up a tent just
outside the sportsplex that is ideal for a child friendly space, and the centre
staff are keen to have us establish one. On our way out, we talk to a family
camped outside in a tent. The parents went through the residential school
system; they don’t want to sleep inside in an institutional setting. No one
knows when they will be able to drink the water, let alone go home.

 

Charitable contributions from people like you make it
possible for us to respond to emergencies in Canada and around the world. By
contributing to our Children's Emergency Fund, you will enable us to
immediately serve children through disaster planning, preparedness, response
and recovery work.  Donate here
http://bit.ly/14CvNrx

 

Cruel Irony: No Clean Water in Flood-affected Pakistan

Iwoolverton 

Ian Woolverton, Save the Children Media Manager

Sukkur District, Pakistan

Friday, August 27, 2010

 

 I had to choke back tears as I watched a doctor supported by Save the Children give Ramzan, a 2-year-old boy, fluids in a feverous attempt to reverse the devastating effects of severe dehydration. 

Ramzan’s mother, Hajra, looked on anxiously as the doctor explained that she must help her son drink electrolytes to replace lost fluids. 

Make no mistake, Ramzan is gravely ill.  He has reached a dangerous level of dehydration brought on by watery diarrhea. No wonder. For the last fifteen days mother and child have lived on a baking concrete floor in one of the hundreds of camps that have sprung up in Sukkur district. 

Before floodwaters broke the banks of the River Indus, Ramzan lived with his eleven brothers and sisters in Jacobabad. Now they are destitute and face an uncertain future. 

At the camp Dr. Sheikh impressed upon me his concerns for a second wave of disaster — an outbreak of flood-related illnesses like diarrhea, malaria and skin infections. 

These types of preventable but communicable conditions send shivers down the spine. With still pools of water visible in most camps, reported cases of malaria are rising.

Biggest killer of children

But watery diarrhea concerns us most.  It robs the body of fluids, which can lead to heat stroke, kidney failure and death. 

The sad truth: diarrhea is the biggest killer of children under the age of five. Yet low-tech, low-cost solutions like packets of oral rehydration salts can help prevent children from becoming dangerously dehydrated. 

In many cases families are sourcing water from stagnant pools, which often contain human and animal waste.  This might sound ghastly, but what would you do if your son or daughter were desperately thirsty and drifting in and out of consciousness? Might you accept the risks of drinking dirty water in the hope of alleviating the suffering of your child? 

Factor in the stifling heat — temperatures soars high into the forties — and drinking contaminated water might not seem such a bad idea.  There’s a cruel irony at play in flood-affected Pakistan. Despite being swamped by billions of gallons of water, children and families cannot get enough safe water. 

____________________

 

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