By Stalin. S, Caritas India and Caritas staff
“It was almost 11 pm when water rushed into our village,” said Susil Kumar. His village was one of the hundreds to be washed away when floods devastated Bihar in India this year.
“Within no time the water level reached more than four feet. All our belongings and our small house were washed away by the raging waters.”
He was lucky to escape with his wife Kadi Devi and their one year old child to the roof of the local school as the water rushed through his village with tremendous force. They stayed on the roof for six days until rescued by boat.
Caritas Internationalis is appealing for US$5,600,000 to help survivors with food, temporary shelter, hygiene kits and medical supplies and healthcare through 300 clinics.
Caritas members are supporting Caritas India’s operations to provide food, temporary shelter and household items to 270,000 people forced from their homes by flooding in India.
The Kumar family now live on the side of a canal in Ballari village. Life under a plastic roof isn’t easy. There are thousands of families living on this bank. All of them have gone through the same fate.
Finding enough food is always an uncertainty under these circumstances. They are leading an isolated life on this bank, where accessibility from the main land is limited.
Caritas India organized a medical camp and a food distribution programme in this area to provide some relief against the struggles the people are going through.
“Four days back suddenly my child had fever and fell unconscious. There was no medical assistance available here. So we carried our child almost 5 kms away from here and reached a clinic where my child had been given an injection which saved his life” reports Susil kumar.
Most of the people here are struggling with different types of ailments. Medical attention for these people is yet to be started by the government. Meanwhile Caritas India along with the operating partners in Madhepura has conducted two medical camps so far in these areas.
“Today we got some medicines for our child from the medical camp conducted here by Caritas. We are not sure the next time when we will get some medical support,” said his wife.
Water reached the River Ganges from the River Kosi in Bihar forcing the Ganges to change its course. When the river over-flooded its bank and changed its course it swallowed the agricultural lands on its bank.
“Ganga maa (mother) has been feeding us from the time of our forefathers.. She (the Ganges) gave us everything and now, she has taken back whatever she gave us” said Saligram Mandal, a farmer in a village in Bhagalpur supported by Caritas, the only aid agency reaching the area.
The River Ganges now flows through his small plot of land.
The rehabilitation process may take years because all the flooded agricultural lands have been deposited with huge amount of mud and sand. Reclamation of the land is going to be a herculean task.
Many have given up hope of ever being able to farm their gain.
“I don’t know what to do now. There is no way in front of me. I am thinking of going to Punjab to find out some agricultural work to protect my family. Apart from that there is no other option for people in our village,” said Sree Bilas Mandal, another farmer in the village.
Every disaster leaves its trails behind for the next generation. A river runs through the lives of people.
Stalin. S is a Communications Officer with Caritas India.