MSF remains active along coastal region
22 November 1999
Over one million homes have been destroyed by one of the worst cyclones in history when the Orissa province, in India, was struck on October 29. Yearly harvests have been washed away and hundreds of thousands of cattle have died during the cyclone or in the massive floods afterwards. The complete tally for the destruction caused by the cyclone has not been calculated, but the death toll has now exceeded 10,000 people. MSF is active in Bhubaneshwar - the capital of Orissa state, Mahakalpadai - in the Kendrapara district, Paradip - in the Jagathsinghpur district and Erasama - in the Jagathsinghpur district. All of these districts are along the coastal region where the devastation was the worst. MSF is focusing on epidemiological surveillance and prevention particularly of waterborne diseases such as cholera, shigella, diarrhea and other communicable diseases such as measles. Mahakalpadai MSF has set up two mobile clinics that travel by boat. Mobile teams visit affected villages on a rotation method. Distribution of water and sanitation materials such as soap, jerry cans and purification tablets are done in different villages. The Mahakalpadai block in Kendrapara district has a total population of 160,000, but MSF has decided to concentrate on the delta islands which are only accessible by boat. The islands are inhabited by poor migrant fishermen from West Bengal and Bangladesh and have been severely affected by the cyclone - especially by the torrential rains. The total population here is approximately 25,000. The delta area is very remote. Even in normal times, the health structures are inadequate. To reach the villages on the islands of this delta area takes five to six hours from Kendrapara base. The journey is done first by car then by boat. The migrant fishermen from west Bengal and Bangladesh rely on fishing as their main income, but they also have rice paddies surrounding their villages. Both their boats and particularly their rice fields have been badly damaged by the severe winds and torrential rains. The current rice crop should have been harvested around this time but most of it is destroyed and, due to saltwater inundation, new crops may not be able to be planted for the next two years. Paradip Paradip is a large industrial port on the coastline of Jagatsinghpur and MSF is working in the areas slums. In view of the improvement in the general conditions in the slums in Paradip, and the activities of other NGOs working in the area, MSF stopped as of November 18, daily visits to the area. Instead MSF will conduct visits every three to four days to check on medical care, disease patterns and watsan situations. Resumption of activities will be considered should the health and/or watsan conditions deteriorate. Erasama MSF current activities include watsan activities as well as epidemiological surveillance and prevention, particularly of waterborne diseases such as cholera, shigella, diarrhea and other communicable diseases such as measles.