Devendra Singh, Save the Children India
July 1, 2013
Forced separation of families has taken place in areas where relief has been scarce.
In the village of Vijaynagar in the Agastyamuni stretch in Rudraprayag district, along the river Mandakini, I met with the survivors of the havoc that descended in Uttarakhand. Many of them are finding their way from the upper reaches of the mountains and the secluded villages and are making their way to safer areas, where their day-to-day needs can be taken care of and where they can access the aid that has not been able to reach them.
Dhirendra Lal, 42, is a father who has hitchhiked for about 12 miles from a village called Chandrapuri with his son and two daughters. His wife has stayed back in the village with an infant daughter. He was not at home when the disaster struck since he lives and works in Sonprayag in a hotel. When it became evident that there was a disaster, he feared the worst and he quickly made his way back to his village where his family lived as the heavy rains continued to pelt down. A bridge had been washed away so his trek was longer and more arduous than ever before. His wife had managed to rescue their four children, as well as their cow. He is now on his way to Gunou village, which is about 6 miles away to leave his children with his in-laws who live there.
How has the trauma affected his family and the children? “The children scream at night,” Lal says. I ask Ankita, the elder of the two daughters, how she reacted to the floods. “I ran and ran,” she replies in a murmur, “and continued running. It felt as if the water was chasing me forever.” I ask Ankush what he needs most now. “A home,” he replies, “somewhere where I can be safe from floods and stay with my parents.”
Two of Lal’s daughters are in classes 7th and 5th and his son is in 2nd class. What about their schooling? When will they resume their studies? “I don’t know,” he says. “We have lost everything we had – my priority is to find a way to rebuild our lives.” It will be many months before his three children are able to go back to school, he fears.
Finally, I ask Lal about the relief that he has received. “Nothing,” he replies. “Nobody has even come to meet us as yet. We have little to eat and that’s why I am dropping three of my children at our relative’s house. When I go back home, I will reconstruct my home. Hopefully there will still be work for me, since now there are no pilgrims coming to stay in hotels.”
We inform him about a relief camp that is providing food and other essential items in neighboring Silli village and he says that he will surely halt there on his way back -- though he does not know how he can carry heavy provisions through the mountains to where his home was.
The road to his village will take months to repair but some relief material is now being carried to such cut-off but relatively close villages on ponies now. The only fear is that with much of the relief supplies having been hurriedly dumped in easier to access areas, will relief continue to come, especially when the media attention dies out in the coming weeks?
How you can help
Please donate now to the India Floods Children in Crisis Fund to support Save the Children's responses to ongoing and urgent needs as a result of the disaster.