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Bihar, India: Oxfam calls for a coordinated response to flood crisis

Patna: International humanitarian agency Oxfam today urged the government, other humanitarian agencies, local civil society organizations and donors to come together and immediately respond to people trapped by floods in the state.

“Oxfam’s experience shows that a coordinated response is essential to reach out to a maximum number of people and to address their different needs,” said Mr Lalchand Garg, Programme Manager for East India, Oxfam. “This approach enables each agency to respond according to its strengths, thereby bringing the best to the affected people. This is what is, for instance, currently happening in our joint response to floods in Orissa and West Bengal.”

Oxfam and its local partner organisations, ADITHI, Abhigyan Disha, Shakhi and Bihar Sewa Samithi, have already begun rescuing people in the 20 country boats they had with them as part of their disaster preparedness contingency plan in the flood-prone area. They have also started providing essential non-food items and temporary shelter for displaced persons from their emergency stocks in Madhubani district.

A quick assessment of needs by Oxfam and its partners is also underway in Sitamarhi, Supaul and Darbhanga districts.

“Apart from rescue, our experience shows that providing safe drinking water and addressing public health is essential because it saves lives” said Mr Garg

The floods are expected to worsen due to incessant rains and rising water levels in the Himalayan snow-fed rivers. Vastly swollen rivers, including Kosi, Masan, Bhutahi Balan and Dhaus, have led to a heavy flow of silt and breached embankments.

“As a long term measure, it is essential to invest in proper maintenance and strengthening of embankments,” said Mr Garg.

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