Theme: Community Service
Route: Kathmandu – Vantabari (Koshi Barrage) – Rajbiraj – Bhardaha
Duration: 3 days
Date: August 29-31, 2008
Team: VishnuK, DhilungK, KesavB, NishchalS, BhaskarB, RinaM, SangharshaB, BiswhaS, LaxmiM, AmitaM, SurjaLaxmiM, AnkitKhanal, RajendraS, KumarP, RajeshP, UmeshK, SubashP, SaitP, GaneshT, JasmineB, MadhavS, BinodG and MaheshR
Photos: KesavB, NishchalS, SangharshaB, RinaM and DhilungK
Caption: BishwaS and JasmineB
Report by: DhilungK, RinaM, JasmineB and BhaskarB
Creative Support: DijupT, SangharshaB and DhilungK
A Situation Report:
On 18th August, 2008, Saptakoshi river made a small breach on her eastern sand embankment, about 19 kilometers north from Koshi Barrage. According to local eyewitnesses it was not that large on that day but now the breach has extended its length to about 1600 meters. Koshi changed her usual course inundating four VDCs (Haripur, Shripur, Kushaha, Laukahi) and badly affecting other four (Ghuski, Narshimha, Madhuban and Basantapur). Only 19 % (26,500 cusec) of the Koshi river is flowing through the Koshi Barrage which has created another unusual scene at the barrage area. The mini-ocean like look has turned into ocean of sand. The attempt of stopping further erosion of the embankment had been futile. Only few tree branches were seen placed at the spur of the embankment breach.
“At around 1:30 PM, my daughter rushed screaming seeing the flood coming in. We quickly managed to escape to the terrace of neighbor’s concrete house. She saved our lives.” One of the flood victims recollected the moment pointing to his 10 years old daughter Lusi kumari.
Latest government report estimates that 107,000 people are affected by this disaster. Koshi has already expanded her new course to wide area of Bihar, India, affecting many districts and millions of people. We saw many Indian flood victims entering (officially believed to be more than 10,000). Often close trans-border communal relationship and family ties are one of the major factors for this influx of victims.
About 11 temporary shelters have been established. Many national and international organizations are working closely with District Disaster Relief Committees (DDRC) led by the Chief of District Offices. We had to attain the daily meeting called by CDO of Saptari to acknowledge and finalize our program decisions. NDRT (National Disaster Response Team), Red Cross, UNICEF, Oxfam, Government officials from Health sector, Matrika Yadav (former minister) and other National and local partners were present on the meeting. CDO channelized the responsibility to different project heads and we had to attain another meeting with the Superintendent of Sagarmatha Zonal Hospital who was in charge of all the heath related activities in the disaster site.
Despite of the coordination, during our inspection of the disaster site we found that humanitarian response has not been sufficient enough. We came to know that not even a single ambulance was mobilized for weeks after disaster. A truck loaded with medicines had not arrived from Kathmandu since back three days. People were still being killed by cold at night. Shelters which are difficult to access were still deprived of humanitarian aid distributions. Worst of all was the heinous attempts of mingling the aid programs with local political agendas. We find in the newspapers and media that millions being donated for the rescue operations. But still Sagarmatha Zonal Hospital is not being able to provide enough medication to the flood victims due to lack of budget. Till date all the health operations were financed by Hospital itself. Patients load at the hospital was way beyond its capacity.
On Sunday, we organized a Medical Camp for the flood victims at Bhardaha, Saptari. CMA Association, Saptari was our local partner. Four temporary shelters around our camps were our target. We found most of the cases were dysentery, malnutrition, diarrhea, common cold and viral fever and skin infections. The responsibility of the continuation of the Medical Camp at the site was handed over to CMA Association.
Empathy is one of the strongest factors that makes our social fiber strong. It was that empathy which encouraged us to volunteer a Medical Camp, it is the same empathy which is making us willing to donate for the rescue operations. Ripples of the disaster are going to last long. It is very important to sustain that feeling of empathy for us and especially for those who are directly evolved in the disaster response operations.
My Trip Towards Humanity – Koshi Flood Victims:
Recollections from Rina
It was an ordinary morning as I flipped the pages of The Himalayan Times, a national daily. Headline traumatized me that said, “Flood renders 30,000 homeless, Koshi inundates 6 VDCs, 10 more at risk – 5 persons missing.” The next day, 20th of August 2008, another heart wrenching headline “40,000 flee homes in Sunsari, 20 missing. Saptakoshi River damaged 2 dams and flooded human settlements in Sunsari”. Still I am not sure what exactly it was, ‘Natural disaster’ or ‘Tragedy that people say could be avoided’ but those devastating headlines hover over my head all day long and I tried to imagine how ruthless life’s been for those people of Eastern Nepal. Each time I’ve tried to imagine, my heart became helplessly numb. It feels heavy at heart when you have no idea and nothing to lend as help to the victims of such calamity.
Thanks to D2Hawkeye and those HEARTS who came up with such a noble will to organize a medical camp instead of handing over the cash to the flood relief organizations. My sincere thanks to Dhilung for encouraging me to be one of the volunteers of such a righteous mission. What we were able to do during the medical camp for those flood victims in a day might not be something remarkable of its magnitude but what we felt in our heart is definitely something we should feel proud of.
Earlier I was wondering how can I be any help to the Koshi flood victims and how my contribution of one day salary would make it worth for those people in need. I failed to find any satisfying answer, how? This debate got floated several times during our Special hike of Everest Uncensored Team to Manakamana, previous weekend. Idea of organizing medical camp was on the top choice. Having no sound knowledge on medicines and medical camps, I stayed unexcited over the idea. I even have doubted whether I could make my name get listed in that medical team. Instead of asking the coordinator to list me in the team, I tried to assist them in finding volunteers from medical field and helping in medicine purchase. I hope my input created a good bargain.
On 26th of August I was asked to attend the meeting for medical camp if I would be interested to join the team as a volunteer. Even I was having mild viral fever I jumped in to this offer without giving it a second thought. Indeed I got so excited and felt lucky to have that opportunity. But at the same time I was bit skeptical about my fever whether I would make it or not. To get myself fit physically for the trip I took leave on Thursday and took a complete rest. Later I came to know that plans were changing several times that day. Finally the team made its decision to head for the camp on Friday 29th of August.
Friday morning at 8 am I stuffed things in my backpack and got ready to head toward office and for the medical camp. I knew I was physically not fully prepared for the trip but I didn’t disclose this; fearing I might be out of the team. Gosh! I felt almost robust by the afternoon and ready to hit the road with full energy. Before we head for the trip I thought it would be a good idea to buy some extra foodstuff as we went to nearby mall. While returning we had an accident. Our bike slipped and we nearly ruined our chance of being in the team. Thank God! It was just a small cut in my hand. Without wasting time further we wheeled towards Kalanki chok. Actually it was the first team heading for the medical camp with responsibility of locating the proper site for setting the medical camp. Our second team which consists of Doctors and other volunteers were planned to leave Kathmandu on Saturday.
It was almost 3:30 pm when we left Kathmandu. Our van also picked up three nurses from Kalimati Chowk. After hassle and bustle over Kalanki’s nasty traffic, our driver Raju dai managed to reach Thankot at 6 pm.
There in Naubise, we enjoyed short brunch at one of our regular hiking restaurant. Then we took ‘bi-road’ uphill toward Hetauda. After 3 hours twist and turn drive we halted our journey at Daman for dinner. Amazingly it was cold out there in Daman and we had to wear jacket to keep ourselves warm. Food was great and we felt lucky to have food for the whole team of 13 at once. Otherwise we might had to wait another hour for them to cook extra meal. Later I we came to know that food was prepared for other guests who didn’t showed up in time. After having lucky dinner, we continued our journey toward Hetuada. Slowly we started to go downhill which was covered by thick mist.
Noting could be seen beyond few meters. I wondered how Raju dai managed to drive through those twisted roads with accuracy even in such a poor visibility, must be his sixth sense.
I couldn’t sleep during the journey because I had my contact-lens on. I just tried to keep my eyes shut without sleeping. Someone in the van was trying to tune radio set and suddenly it got the frequency of Hatuada FM that entertained us with various Hindi Hits. It was a nice break for all of us. By the midnight we reached Avocado Hotel at Hetuada and everyone hurried for a good night sleep.
It was 6 am when I opened my eyes wearily but didn’t take much time to get ready for the journey ahead. Other team members could not make that early so I thought of grabbing the camera to have some breakfast shots. To my amusement I found some snails to shot which seemed doing some slow ballet. By 8 am everyone got packed and ready for the breakfast and in the next hour we were on the road for our second days’ journey to Saptakoshi.
My morning encounter with snails enticed me to more of photography. I kept clicking during the whole journey. We reached Lahan at 1:30 pm and had a delicious lunch at Goduli Hotel. With happy stomachs we all headed toward our final destination ‘Saptakoshi’.
Great actions are made up of small actions:
Recollections from Jasmine
Out of the frying pans – So Relaxing ; but.. Into the fire….. Eeeeeh … aahhhh
The team for D2 medical camp could set a camp in front of the school where the flood victims were kept in Rajbiraj in the mid afternoon.
It is difficult enough to jot the real feelings I had after seeing the flood victims in Saptari district, the pain, the ail, the hunger, their unrelenting day to day struggle for survival…… all were so woeful and sympathetic.
I personally felt very blissful and satisfied when I could help others but this does not mean that I gave the people huge pricey gifts, just talking or giving someone attention can be enough to make them happy.
The D2 Medical camp might be a drop of support in the ocean of trouble for those flood victims, but never to be forgotten a collection of drops turns to the ocean. Residing in the capital, we can only think how those victims are surviving watching them on the television, but being in the real place and interacting with those victims give the intolerable feelings of compassion. The grim expressions on their face were a tacit agreement of failure in their lives.
When the camp was set, there was a long queue of people with various complains of their health status with an expectation of better health now.
Moreover, the medical statistics showed most people were affected with dysentery, malnutrition ,diarrhea and skin infections.
On the other hand, the atypical questions they had after getting the medicine like “malai jamma eti maatra ausadhi,uslai ta kati dherai chha ni” ….made me realize their innocence, the real starvation of getting back to the normal healthy life.
They seemed to be in strong expectation that medical professionals can fulfill their appetite; they were seeking more medicine, perhaps they were thinking they would have the medicines in scarce of food. They were so inquisitive, if we would help them more, if they get more medicine, if they can getrelieve the pain soon.
Those inapt queries basically referred their innocence and their ignorance.
With the contentment of success regarding medical camp, our vans took the course to Kathmandu about quarter to seven in the evening. We could not fulfill all their desires and could not answer all the questions they had, nevertheless it feels happy and satisfied that we could give them even a little hope to survive more. It feels good to see that our work and small effort for such can make huge difference in the life of the people who are in need of real help.
However, due to various reasons, our target to reach the people who were far from the support, who were desperate for help for their lives could not come true.
We have come up with an idea that the government should always plan for every disasters and there should be a well managed organization for the support and rehabilitation of the affected people. The organizations and people who are extending their hand for the social service should be encouraged and given support in this campaign.
Volunteer Journal – Koshi Flood Relief :
Recollections from Bhaskar
It was a heartwarming and a numbing experience to be part of the medical camp to help Koshi flood victims. Heartwarming because of the joy and satisfaction that swells up naturally after being able to selflessly devote one’s time and effort in helping a community in need. Numbing because of the sheer scale of the calamity experienced firsthand. In all, an exhaustive three days of travel (which included a total of twenty two hours of driving at night) coupled with a bagful of useful experience and four hours of sleep. Then again I am comforted by the thought that I was in the second team that left Kathmandu a day later. Spare some thought for the first team of volunteers who had to endure a sweltering hot night in Rajbiraj.
To me, the highlight of the trip was the two and a half hours spent on working at the medical camp. I sat at the registration desk and wrote the name, age, gender, address and symptoms of the thronging mass that had queued up for a medical check-up. Beside me was Rina who put down the aforementioned details in a registration book while I did so in a D2 stamped medical pad tailored for Dr. Umesh. The majority of the people who registered for the check-up were from India. Not that surprising if you actually compare the number of people displaced by the flood in both countries. We were able to serve approximately one hundred and sixty patients in that span. This included two patients in critical condition and one child who met a life threatening accident near the camp site. She looked five years old and had to be rushed in an ambulance after being administered emergency first-aid treatment from the nurses at our camp.
Although from the outset it seemed the overall relief operations from the state and NGOs were being carried out in good fashion, the reality is conflicting. Small camp-like makeshift shelters of blue plastic sheet on top of bamboo poles can be seen littered aside the highway along the Kosi Tappu reserve. The shelters are also spread on the west of the reserve although not quite yet populated. Apparently the victims near the site of the seepage are not willing to rehabilitate across the bridge. The first team of volunteers had to sift through the typical bureaucratic drudgery to get things moving. It is amazing how politics gets priority in place of human suffering time and time again. There was a sense of bickering between rival organizations coming for aid; deep territorial pissing among neighboring districts on who gets how much aid; and a clear lack of a centralized leadership on how the effort is to be carried out. In all – a project plan is missing at the very top level. A sign of misplaced time and sad ironies – how we’ve come to value broken inane processes in comparison to leaving all differences aside and providing quick relief to fellow countrymen.
Hence in the backdrop of a real crisis, it was a successful trip given the amount of time to be had. It was a commendable gesture from a private organization to devote time and logistics in doing the hard work. It is always easy to donate money in the name of social service but more difficult to act. Personally I hope this is one of many to come in D2. Indians or Nepalese living in the Koshi river delta need even more support in the days to come. Soon water borne disease is going to spread due to contaminated and stale water. People will be looking to rebuild their lives as the waters recede. The D2 team that went to Koshi has gained a very practical knowledge of what worked, what did not work and what can be managed better the next time around. I look forward to either joining or organizing another trip in near future.
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