International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team is on the ground in the hardest-hit areas in India following Cyclone Phailin, a catastrophic storm roughly the size of Hurricane Katrina that struck the country’s eastern coast on October 12. Immediately following the storm, International Medical Corps mobilized an emergency response in Odisha state, where an estimated 200,000 people were stranded due to flooding in two of the worst affected districts: Balasore and Mayurbhanj. In partnership with the Chief District Medical Officers, our Emergency Response Team has supported local health authorities in providing critical health care to more than 50 villages that were marooned by the cyclone. To date, we have provided more than 16,000 primary healthcare consultations.
There has been an increase in upper respiratory infections and skin diseases, and a steep increase in cases of diarrhea, as the water supply has been contaminated and relief camps are overcrowded with poor sanitation conditions. Over the long-term, International Medical Corps anticipates that sanitation, food security, and livelihood programs will be needed. As such, we are increasing the number of hand pumps available and providing water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to communities through our local partner Unnayan. In addition, we are providing over 600 hygiene kits to households, and hygiene kits and first aid kits to ten schools in the area.
Authorities put the death toll from Cylone Phailin at 30 – far fewer than had been feared – but said more than 12 million people were affected by the storm. In its wake, the destruction of standing crops has been massive, and hundreds of thousands of people face returning to the damage or destruction of their homes due to flooding.
“People were evacuated mostly to public institutions like schools and hospitals. They need food, shelter, water, sanitation,” says Dr. Santhosh Kumar, an orthopedic surgeon who worked with International Medical Corps in Libya and is helping lead its response in India. “The government is working really hard but they’re not able to provide all the things that people need.”
With the support of our partners, including the Balasore District Health Authorities and ChildFund International in India, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team assessed humanitarian needs in Balasore on October 17 and began providing services through mobile medical units. Many communities in Balasore were not prepared for the continuous rain that flooded 1,725 villages, affecting 348,778 people and over 260 square miles of crops. On October 22, International Medical Corps and ChildFund conducted a joint multi-sectoral assessment in Mayurbhanj to identify health, water supply, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition and food security, and child protection needs. The cyclone and ensuing floods affected 737 villages, 342,260 people, and over 200 square miles of crops in Mayurbhanj District.
In partnership with ChildFund, International Medical Corps also assessed humanitarian needs in districts in southern Odisha State that were directly affected by Cyclone Phailin. In Puri and Kendrapara Districts, over three million people were impacted by the cyclone and floods. The main concern in the villages was the loss of livelihoods, as crops, fishing boats, and nets were damaged. The joint assessment team identified the need for the distribution of non-food items, such as hygiene kits, for the affected villages. Medium- and long-term needs have also been identified, including capacity building to improve water purification techniques and raising the platforms for hand pumps to mitigate contamination from future flooding and storms.
International Medical Corps has been a first responder to numerous natural disasters in Asia, including the tsunami in Japan two years ago, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.