Making Sanitation & Hygiene Facilities Accessible—Delhi Flood Response

Making Sanitation & Hygiene Facilities Accessible—Delhi Flood Response

While we watched the catastrophic visuals of rains, floods and the raging rivers sweeping away busloads of people, houses, trees and whatnot in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Yamuna sneaked up on us. The river, they said, had reclaimed its original natural course when it reached the Red Fort. Nature was giving back to us, what we have blindly, ruthlessly and irresponsibly done to it. But unfortunately, in any natural disasters the worst affected and the most impacted are the marginalised communities. 

At least 150 people died in flash floods across Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan. Witnessing one of the wettest July in 40 years, the low lying parts of Delhi-NCR was submerged in water.

It was particularly bad for families living on the banks of Yamuna. They were displaced and were forced to live on the pavements in makeshift tents. They had to leave their submerged homes with bare essentials. People tried returning to their homes, submerged in at least 5 feet of water, to retrieve important documents, papers, and whatever else they could save. The low lying areas on the banks is often used for farming; with that land submerged families lost their livelihood, their source of income. Those living in these low lying areas are also daily wage labourers, who ended up missing their day’s work trying to keep their families and themselves safe. Sanitation and hygiene was hugely compromised; the toilets were underwater, and sources of clean drinking water were either submerged or not available because the main supply source of the Delhi Jal Board was submerged. Women and girls had no privacy and menstrual health and hygiene was put on the back burner.

Oxfam with its long history of humanitarian responses, jumped in. We started our response in two colonies in Jaitpur—Khadda colony and Vishwakarma colony. We reached over 6000 people i.e. 1200 families. A rapid needs assessment showed that there was an immediate need for clean drinking water and toilet facilities. This was important to ensure because these communities were also at the risk of water-borne diseases.

We collaborated with the Delhi Jal Board and set up 2 water tankers, one in Khadda Colony and Vishwakarma Colony each. The tanker was there for 6 days and provided 40000 lts of water per day. Nearly 1500 people in these colonies, who were displaced due to the floods, had access to drinking water. In addition, 25000 NaDCC tablets were distributed; these help clean water making it potable. 3000 ORS packets were distributed as well.

Several families were shifted to a nearby school, but for those living in tents sanitation and hygiene remained a problem, especially for women and girls. A 10-stall mobile toilet van was installed at Khadda Colony; this was used by over 1000 people.

Meetings were held on public health promotion with women and adolescent girls. We also provided 1000 packets of sanitary napkins, and 2000 soaps (bathing and washing) to 500 families.

These were essentials for the families. Once the families started moving back, our teams visited them again. The cleaning of the colonies was being undertaken by the government and life was returning back to normalcy. But as rains continue, so does the threat of floods. Oxfam India’s humanitarian hub is on standby and despite its financial constraints, is always prepared to reach out to the most marginalised and worst affected communities.  

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