Gosaba (West Bengal) : UNICEF and several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have plunged headlong to supplement the government relief operations in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district, which was the worst hit by cyclone Aila last month.
Soon after news of the devastation filtered out, the UNICEF sent its rapid assistance team to Gosaba, one of the areas ravaged by the cyclone, to meet affected women and children and assess the extent of damages and relief needed, said S.N. Dave, the officer-in-charge of the organisation in the state.
“We worked through our partners like Ramakrishna Mission, Lokshiksha Parishad, Palli Unnayan Samiti and so on to move in emergency supplies including water jerry cans, water purification tablets, family hygiene kits, oral rehydration salts as also flood information education booklets,” he said.
Besides, UNICEF is also providing chemicals to the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) to test water quality of tubewells and for disinfection in both North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts.
“We had to travel by boat and cycle to reach our areas of work. Now everything is washed away and we will have to start all over again,” said Sister Jessya, a volunteer with Palli Unnayan Samiti, an NGO working in the district.
The Bharat Sevashram Sangha, frequently seen in any calamity hit area, is carrying out relief work in Sonakhali, Gosaba, Basanti, Rangabelia, Namkhana, Pathar Pratima, Sagar Islands of South 24 Parganas.
“Cooked food and dry foodstuffs are being distributed in the remote coastal areas with the help of motor boats,” said Sangha general secretary Swami Buddhananda.
“It is unimaginable. I have not seen such destruction in my life,” said Kripa Sindhu Pradhan, a resident of an affected village. “We have seen storms, cyclones and floods and have learned to fight with them, but this time the destruction is enormous. Embankments that used to protect us from the high tide broke down, and water just gushed in.”
The Tagore Society for Rural Development and WWF are among the other organisations giving succour to the victims.
The Ramakrishna Mission has also started several relief camps. “But we have not taken any help from the government. In the past we have seen that if we take government help, then ministers, bureaucrats and party workers try to dictate terms to us on distribution of relief,” said a Mission official.