17 lakh children affected in Assam floods: NGO

Two flood-hit children in a raft in Dhemaji district in Assam on Monday. Photo credit: Save the Children.

More than 17 lakh children have been affected in the current wave of floods in Assam even as the state government lacks a comprehensive project to deal with the needs of children during the annual disaster.

The assessment was made by North East Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (NESPYM), an NGO, even as the daily flood bulletin issued by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) does not provide specific data on the number of women and children taking shelter in relief camps.

"Specific data of age and sex of children affected by floods is required for specific action by government agencies, NGOs or charitable organisations. We had written to the ASDMA two years ago seeking such specific data but the flood bulletin still doesn't provide so," director of NESPYM, Chiranjeeb Kakoty told DH on Tuesday.

The daily flood bulletin issued on Tuesday evening said 44.96 lakh people remained affected in 32 districts while 1,01,085 persons had taken shelter in 226 relief camps.

Save the Children, an international NGO working in Assam since 2002, said most relief camps still lacked facilities to take care of specific needs of the children. "During a natural disaster like flood, children are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation as their parents remain busy either in managing a shelter or food. Many children drown in floodwaters. There is an urgent need of help from all to take care of the children's need," said Chitta Priyo Sadhu, general manager of Save the Children. The NGO is gearing up for relief measures in Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Majuli, three worst-affected districts.

An official in ASDMA claimed all relief camps had a baby feeding space and efforts are on by the social welfare department to take care of children-specific needs.

But Sadhu said, "The government must work out a comprehensive project to have child-friendly space in each relief camp since the flood is an annual disaster in Assam. In 2014, we had provided training to government staff on this but we are yet to see a comprehensive project."

The NGO in 2003 had launched a project in which child-friendly spaces were facilitated in some relief camps and the flood-hit children are provided with both play and study materials.

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