October 16, 2009

Flood water in the Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh is receding, yet millions are still left homeless. Concerns are growing about the needs for shelter, food, and protection against diseases such as malaria. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was one of the first international humanitarian aid organizations to provide emergency assistance to the affected populations in Andhra Pradesh, and is continuing its relief efforts.

Simon Burroughs, MSF’s Emergency Coordinator in Andhra Pradesh, reports: "When I look around in the village where I am standing, virtually every building has been destroyed. This place was hit by three or four meters of flood water, so people didn’t just have their homes destroyed, they also lost all their possessions. They had to leave at a moment’s notice in order to escape. A lot of livelihood has been wrecked, fisherman’s nets have been swept away, farmers’ fields have been completely destroyed."

MSF has distributed over 1,000 emergency kits in the Kurnool district, containing kitchen utensils, blankets, hygiene materials and plastic sheeting to use for shelter. The organization will continue distributing an additional 2,000 kits in the Kurnool and Vijaywada districts until Sunday. One thousand mosquito nets will also be given out in the Vijaywada district, as the area is prone to malaria.

"MSF, along with other NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and the Indian state, is ensuring that people’s basic, short-term needs are covered. Many people don’t have anywhere to cook, so we provide cooking utensils. With the plastic sheeting they can put up a tent. It is getting colder in the season now, so the blankets that we distribute are also very welcome," explains Simon.

Although it will take a long time for things to return to normal, Simon sees signs that things are improving: "There is still standing water, but the infrastructure is improving and access to areas which previously were only accessible by helicopter is opening up. However there are probably still pockets of people in isolated areas who are in need of more aid, and we are continuing our assessments to see if we can reach them."

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