Dr S.P.Agarwal, Secretary General, IRCS delivered the “Nityanand Gupta Memorial Lecture” at the Disaster Course alumni meet organised at the Multi purpose conference facility of the Indian Red Cross society, National headquarters on 1st September 2013.
Dr. S. P. Aggarwal spoke of the of the various factors which led to the Uttarakhand flash flood disaster as well as the ongoing disaster relief efforts mounted by the Indian Red Cross in Uttarakhand.
On the 16/17th of June 2013 Uttarakhand and especially the districts of Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi, Pithoragarh and Chamoli received approximately 370 percent more rainfall than it usually receives in the whole rainy season. As a result of the cloud burst and eventual floods, a large number of people lost their lives or were reported missing. Many villages completely disappeared from the map of the region. The consequences of such disasters are vast. Some can be evaluated in monetary terms while other that have psycho-social implications may not.
Dr Agarwal reviewed the operations of the Indian Red Cross Society during this disaster. He said the Indian Red Cross, NHQ had launched a pilot programme on First Medical Responders in Uttarakhand in 2011. The aim of the programme is to train volunteers in First aid, psychosocial support, water and sanitation etc. For the purpose a 9 module curriculum has been designed by IRCS alongwith it’s partners the IFRC and ICRC. 151 master trainers and more than 4500 First medical responders have been trained in Uttarakhand across it’s 13 districts.
The Secretary General said that the FMRs played a very important part in the initial response to the disasters in their own communities as was envisaged. Subsequently they are participating in large numbers in all the relief activities of the Indian Red Cross that included apart from distributing relief to the affected population, setting up of tent shelters in all the affected districts especially in Joshiyara, Uttarkashi; assisting the National Disaster Watsan Response team members in setting up and subsequently operating the NORIT water sanitation machines in Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag and Phata. These machines can provide 2000 liters of drinking water per hour after purifying it. The FMRs have been distributing the water in the town and surrounding villages, thereby allowing thousands of people access to clean drinking water after the disaster. In far flung areas like Munsiyari and Dharchula they have carried and deployed manually operated MANPACK water purification machines. This effort has gone a long way in preventing epidemics of water borne diseases.
The FMRs have also been providing infromation about people stranded in several locations to the local authorities as well as to their loved ones. They have provided psychosocial support to those needing it. The FMRs have also assisted the NDWRT members in imparting health promotion messages to the community and especially the school children.
Following immediate recovery initiatives taken up, a long term recovery programme has also been initiated at a large scale. Eight sub stores are being set up in the affected districts and are being stocked with relief items which can be carried to inaccessible areas.
The IFRC also deployed technical staff to assist in disaster management, emergency health, water and sanitation and communications.
Dr. S.P. Agarwal expressed satisfaction in that the FMRs who had been trained with the objective of providing support to their disaster struck community members and also to members of the specialised relief teams, had stood up to the challenge posed by this disaster. He said that this programme has since also been launched in 15 states that are highly disaster prone and expected further expansion. He also expressed satisfaction in that the Indian Red Cross was able to provide support and helped thousands to smile again after the disaster.