Self-help groups are doing their best in the areas of sanitation and hygiene in flood-ravaged Kashmir Valley, where hundreds of people perished in devastating floods and where carcasses of animals are floating in the steets now in many towns, unleashing the fear of epidemics.
One such group, 3Rs (Rescue, Relief and Rehabilitation), has been initiated by Shujaat Bukhari, editor-in-chief of Srinagar-based English daily Rising Kashmir.
He said the carcasses dotting Srinagar has indeed led to a grave health concern, and his group is actively working to provide medical aid to the people.
"The situation continues to be grave. Government has started lifting the dead animals, partcularly dead chicken, but we are not sure whether they are being disinfected before being buried. We are hence distributing clorine tablets and phenyl besides anti-biotics and other disinfectants in huge volumes to people," Bukhari told IANS.
He said that the state government, to him, was "still invisible" and it was up to the people to help themselves as far as medical aid and hygene were concerned.
"The 3R initiative is supported by people across India. We received medical and other supplies from Rotary Club, Coimbatore and Shadan Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, among others. We put up camps in different areas like Nowgam, Nishat, Humhama and distributed medicine, clothes and food material," Bukhari said.
3R, in the initial days of the flood, also purchased a boat from Delhi and was able to rescue around 800 people from Batmaloo, Lal Chowk, Exchange Road, and Red Cross Road, he said.
"Till September 12, no rescue team of NDRF or the army was able to reach Lal Chowk or Exchange Road," Bukhari said.
Shafqat Khan, a senior government official in Family Welfare Department, too has formed a team to distribute releif material and medicines.
"After the flood receded, we have been distributing general medicines such as antibiotics, anti-diabetics, anti-hypertension, anti-tetanus, analgesics in areas such as Airport road, Barzulla, Baghat, Rawalpora," Khan told IANS.
One of his team, Isra Amin Bhat, said the group is also conducting a door-to-door campaign to educate people on sanitation and hygene in emergency conditions.
"We are doing door-to-door campaign with Shafqat Khan on how to dispose garbage, and what could be of immediate help to protect themselves from infection in a city littered with carcasses. We distributed sanitation items like handwash and sanitisers and also disinfectants like Domex and Harpic. We cleaned some of the most messy and dirty areas of Sanat Nagar and Hyderpora localities, and burned all the waste we collected," Bhat, anchor of the show Sitaron se Aage on DD Kashir, told IANS.
Nazir Ganaie, another volunteer in the group, added that scavengers in the city were one of the worst hit communities in the flood and hence voluntary garbage collection has become a necessity.
Ganaie, who was earlier part of a rescue group of Kashmiri lawyer Sajjad Sheikh, said the flood revealed that the government was caught napping both during the floods and in the aftermath, in relief operations.
"Unless the administration shows extraordinary effort in cleaning the city, many diseases might come up. In Maisuma, while we were on rescue operation in our boat, we even saw a dead body floating. Trails of dead chicken too are floating," Gaaie told IANS.
Salman Nizami, joint secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Congress, too had been in the forefront of self-help groups and has been distributing ration to people who have lost their homes and taken shelter in makeshift camps.
"We are receiving truck full of ration every week at our camp in Government Girls' Higher Secondary School, Hyderpora. The camp is set up by Kashmir and Delhi based volunteers, many of whom are schoolchildren. The ration is being provided by local people of Rajouri, Delhi and Banihal," Nizami told IANS.
"We are distributing the ration in Rajbagh, Bemina, Jawahar Nagar, and at langars at Sanat Nagar, Batmaloo and Magarmal Bagh, among othersm" he added.