Two weeks ago, in the wee hours, I heard my mother speaking in a hushed tone over the phone, afraid her voice might wake us up. But I was awake and as I tiptoed closer, I saw my mother with a dazed expression on her face and the only word I heard her speak out loud was ‘everything’!
I knew what that look meant at this time of the year in Assam, the monsoons had arrived and with it, it brought fury. The Assam flood are an annual affair. The mighty Brahmaputra and its many tributaries had flooded 30 of the 33 districts in the state. The friend my mother was speaking to had her house in the village washed away; not a straw was to be seen.
Two weeks of incessant rains has displaced 54 lakh people, the death toll has climbed to 64, and more are in the counting, 90% of the Kaziranga National Park was underwater until recently and more than 100 animals have fallen prey to the floodwaters. The mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries are still flowing above the danger mark in Guwahati and other parts of the state. This is one of the worst floods that the Assam has ever seen.
Houses have been washed away; schools have been inundated with several feet high muddy waters, notebooks with washed away pen marks float in the water alongside clanking utensils. Banana trunk rafts and bamboo rafts have turned into homes for people; people are living and wading through muddy waters, food grains have been washed away and people are trying to salvage whatever they can. These are images that one is seeing on social media and WhatsApp messages. But to me coming from the state, these are very real.
Threats of water-borne diseases and fevers have begun to manifest into reality and people have nowhere and no one to turn too after all hospitals is either flooded or over-crowded. Little children, women and old people are the worst sufferers. Diarrhoea, dysentery, fever and severe skin infections have begun to spread in the relief camps along with Japanese Encephalitis, a mosquito-borne viral infection. New-born babies and expectant mothers are in severe need of help.
As my mother’s friend along with lakhs of people at the relief camps, there are hundreds more who are waiting for water to recede with limited access to clean drinking water, some food, a place to rest in and wait for the water to recede.
The Assam flood survivors need our help and each one of us in whatever small ways we can, should make an effort to provide some care and lend our support.
The Smile Foundation Disaster Response team is on the ground assessing the needs of the survivors and mobilising resources to extend support. The immediate needs of the Assam flood as per the reports from the ground include drinking water, food, hygiene kits, chlorine tablets, and medical assistance. Every step matters. Every contribution matters.
Photographs by- Himagshu Sarma (https://www.facebook.com/spiritofhimangshu )