More than one million people have sought refuge in over 150 relief camps after floods in Bihar swept away their homes. Credit: Oxfam
Oxfam is helping rescue people by boat and distribute hygiene supplies and temporary shelter.

Thousands of families at risk in Bihar floods

“Hygiene and sanitation facilities are urgently needed.”
Mani Kumar
Oxfam’s Response Coordinator
Published: 3 September 2008

Efforts to tackle the devastating floods in north east India that have affected over 2.7 million people must be increased urgently to avert a secondary disaster due to disease, warns international agency Oxfam today.

A lack of clean water and sanitation in crowded camps for displaced people in the Indian state of Bihar is threatening the lives of thousands of women, men and children.

More than one million people have sought refuge in over 150 relief camps after floods swept away their homes. Search and rescue operations are trying to reach thousands of women, men and children still stranded by floodwaters and urgently in need of relocation and assistance.

“Women and children are bearing the brunt of the disaster, whether huddled in cramped camps or exposed to heat and the rains under the open sky. Thousands of people are without safe water and are having to defecate in floodwaters. There is a serious risk of diseases breaking out,” said Mani Kumar, coordinating Oxfam’s response in Bihar.

“Hygiene and sanitation facilities are urgently needed to prevent the spread of a water-borne epidemic. More food and shelter is also needed immediately,” added Kumar.

Working with local partner organizations, Oxfam is using motorboats to rescue stranded men, women and children and is distributing tarpaulin shelter sheets, water purification kits, buckets and oral rehydration sachets for 100,000 people in camps in Supaul, the worst affected district of Bihar.

The floods were caused when heavy rains led to a 2km-breach in the Bhimnagar barrage – designed to control floods – on the River Koshi near the India-Nepal border on 18 August.

Oxfam has been working in India since 1951 to alleviate poverty and suffering as well as helping communities facing disaster risks to become more resilient.