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Assam floods: Pregnant women, lactating mothers struggle in crammed relief camps

Life is tough for pregnant women, lactating mothers in a crammed facilities as Assam remains flooded.

india Updated: Jul 16, 2017 23:17 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Inmates of the Hatikhuli flood relief camp near Kaziranga National park in Assam luckily have an anganwadi centre. Other camps are facing sub-human conditions say officials.
Inmates of the Hatikhuli flood relief camp near Kaziranga National park in Assam luckily have an anganwadi centre. Other camps are facing sub-human conditions say officials. (Rahul Karmakar/Hindustan Times)

Planning for a baby is tough in a land where floods may displace people four times a year.

Suresh and Bina Saroh’s son, now 6, survived fever and diarrhoea after their village, Sildubi Borbeel Mising Gaon near Kaziranga National Park, was inundated in 2012.  They lost their second son in a similar situation last year. The baby named Ajay, meaning invincible, was barely three months old. 

Bina, 29, is pregnant again. And she knows she is not in the right place — a cramped relief camp for the flood-affected — to be with child. 

“One can tolerate the heat and humidity in this tin-roofed camp (No 1 Hatikhuli Tea Estate Lower Primary School), but sharing one toilet with 247 others is tough,” Bina said.  The school has two toilets, but one has been locked, forcing the inmates to dent the BJP-led coalition government’s avowed achievement of making Assam open-defecation free. 

“We are trying to ensure health care and some degree of comfort for Bina and 10 lactating mothers who have been in this relief camp for more than a week. The conditions are tough for them,” anganwadi worker Jyotemoye Rajkhowa told HT. 

The camp has no provision to filter iron-heavy groundwater drawn from a tube-well in the school complex. Officials said water purifying tablets are being provided to offset possible diseases. Bina and the lactating mothers are lucky that the school has an anganwadi centre attached, where ASHA (Accredited

Social Health Activist) worker Gayatri Tanti attends to them besides half a dozen children suffering from fever. 

The inmates are fortunate too that the camp is on National Highway 715 and adjoins the Kaziranga National Park. The attention the wildlife preserve gets during floods, spills over. 

The daily flood update from the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) has no break-up of male and female inmates in the 279 relief camps and relief distribution centres. As of Saturday evening, these had 24,423 inmates. 

At the Hatikhuli flood relief camp in Kaziranga. (Rahul Karmakar/Hindustan Times)

Estimates from field officials say a tenth of the women in these camps are either pregnant or lactating. Their condition is said to be sub-human in the worst hit districts such as Lakhimpur and South Salmara. 

“We are trying our best to provide relief materials to the remotest of relief camps. In places such as Majuli (island), I have asked officials to make a list of people who lost everything so that we can help them rebuild,” chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said.  “We have adequate money and the Prime Minister has assured more assistance,” he added.