As the evening sky turned orange, residents of Malke Chak, a remote village in Jammu, welcomed the Smile Foundation team graciously. Malke Chak is one of the villages which were affected severely during the devastating floods that hit Jammu and Kashmir in late September last year.
“No organization has come here yet, but we are helping each other out”, shared the village elders. Despite the disaster, their heart-warming spirit remains indomitable. The Smile Foundation team set to work and distributed relief kits including milk powder packets for infants, chlorine bottles and ORS to families.
On learning that many school going children in the village had lost their school bags and notebooks in the floods, Smile volunteers worked overnight to procure the bags, books and pens and distributed them the next day.
A woman carrying a young child in her arm told a Smile volunteer, “In times like these we have to stand together. Thank you for coming!”
In September last year, the Jammu and Kashmir region witnessed the strongest and deadliest flood in 60 years. Affecting a staggering 2600 villages, the surging waters killed more than 280 people and left over 600,000 people homeless and distressed. Worst hit among those stranded in the disaster were children, women and older people. In Kashmir alone, 390 villages were completely submerged, leaving Pulwama, Shopian, Anantnag and Kulgam districts completely cut off. Bandipur, Ganderbal, Srinagar, Reasi, Rajouri, Poonch and Jammu districts were inundated. The situation worsened when several hospitals were affected and ran out of life-saving drugs. Children and patients were in grip of panic, as Kashmir valley was on a severe healthcare crisis.
Roads, railways, communication networks – all were left in devastating condition, making any kind of aid or assistance impracticable to reach. The problems of the affected people seemed to be only mounting with every passing day. Displaced and rescued families lived in tents braving the chill. Short on resources and with little hope of returning home, these uprooted families remained desperate for help.
During the day, these families would visit their damaged houses to assess the condition and plan ways to rebuild their life. They would assemble the scattered debris of their homes and return to their tents to spend the night. In the absence of light and heating devices, and shortage of woolens, it was the thousands of families living in tented colonies that were worst hit, when the temperature dropped to nearly 5 degrees in the night.
To get back on its feet, the state required a massive national effort.
After joining hands for emergency rescue with the Indian Army, governmental and non-governmental organizations, Smile Foundation deployed its Disaster Response Team on the ground. The needs of the affected people were assessed and relief operations started immediately.
The team started with the relief efforts in RS Pora, Surya Chak and Malke Chak. As few houses were ruined completely in Surya Chak and Malke Chak, people were living in relief camps provided by civil society organizations. The flood has swept away the normalcy of human life there and immediate need of basic food items, milk, school bags, books etc were observed. The team worked towards arranging logistic as listed with the help of villagers and representatives of other civil society organizations. Milk powder, biscuits, bottled water, school bags, copies and pens were distributed in these villages.
The way people turned out to receive these relief materials was the testimony of the plight the area is going through.
Later, the team moved to Kashmir valley wherein they visited Udhampur district where mass destruction had taken place. The entire Saddal mohalla situated on a hill top in Panjar area of Pancheri had vanished in landslides and nearly 30 people were missing. There were 32 deaths and damage to over 400 houses in Udhampur and Reasi districts. It took them 18 hours to reach Srinagar by road.
In Kashmir, the team started with relief material distribution in Kulgam, Anantnag, Pulwama and Badgam areas, where the marks of devastation were quite visible. Later, they carried out their relief operations in Lasjan, Soitang and Bandipore. Villages like Shahgund, Gulshan Muhallah, Gondi Boon and Kaniyari were badly affected. The team distributed milk powder, biscuits, water bottle, chlorine tables and ORS etc. among the villagers. In addition to these, Smile Foundation provided the bare minimum woolen and blankets to the flood affected families to help them endure the stark winters.
Into its second phase of relief operations, the Smile Foundation team on ground focused on providing comprehensive healthcare to the flood victims.
The number of hospitals affected in the floods is huge, causing a severe healthcare crisis. To address the healthcare needs of the people, a series of Smile Health Camps are being organized across the affected villages, seven of which have already been conducted at seven locations, namely – Lasjan, Budgam district; Ghati Shalimar Gawmarg and Moti Mohalla Kalan, Srinagar district; Nowgam Bala Mohalla, Bandipora district; Gulzarpora, Pulwama district; Chattabal, Kulgam district and Matipora Pattan, Baramulla district.
With doctors, pharmacists and volunteers joining efforts to make the health camps a success, the second phase of operations has been quite effective in benefitting thousands of villagers in Jammu and Kashmir. Each health camp offered diagnostic, counselling, curative and referral services.
Smile Foundation’s Disaster Response programme was established in order to take proactive action to the growing frequency and severity of natural disasters. Focused on children and their families, this comprehensive programme acts beyond relief and response to immediate needs into rehabilitation and maintaining a sustainable approach to help them rebuild their lives by facilitating their education, healthcare and livelihood.
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