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A Humanitarian Needs Assessment Report by a Multi-disciplinary Team, April 2002


A humanitarian needs assessment report by a multi-disciplinary team, facilitated by Oxfam India & Bangalore Initiative for Peace and Relief
(Press Release, 28th April, 2002)
“We need to act now. The lives that has been lost in Gujarat should not go as waste” says a new report GUJARAT “GENOCIDE” – 2002 : A HUMANITARIAN CRISIS: “WAITING FOR PEACE, JUSTICE AND RELIEF”. The report that is being released today in Bangalore is put together by a team of professionals working on key humanitarian issues such as public health, psychosocial consequences and socio legal issues. The team has just completed their mission to Gujarat´s violence affected areas.

The “pogrom” and “genocide” in the western Indian state of Gujarat has been unprecedented in independent India. It has already claimed many lives (800 according to government and over 2000 according to independent estimates). It has left over 150,000 Internally Displaced People living in insecure conditions and in inhumane relief camps. “Unending violence, constant terror, official apathy and uncertainty make their future fragile. There is an urgent need to step up humanitarian efforts,” says the report facilitated by Oxfam India and Bangalore Initiative for Peace and Relief.

“Our visits to the affected areas and the interaction with the affected communities have been a traumatising experience. No words can explain the agony and suffering inflicted on them,” says Dr. Thelma Narayan, a leading epidemiologist and a member of the team. “ There is an urgent need to step up public health facilities in camps,” she says.

“The most important need is peace and stoppage of all violence and hostilities. This alone will help to create an environment that is crucial for any intervention. Whatever is required to ensure this at the community, social and political level needs to be done´ says Mr. Kishore Saint, a Gandhian social worker from Udaipur, who was a member of the team.

“We saw a number of patients complaining of ill-defined symptomatic complaints as well as people complaining of sleep disturbances. On enquiry they reported feelings of sleeplessness, irritability and fearfulness. The doctors reported that in the earlier part of the stay, people had more of anxiety symptoms in the form of gabrath. They also reported that these symptoms are estimated to be about 25-30% “ says Prof. R. Srinivasa Murthy, a leading mental health expert and a member of the team. (He was the Chief Editor of the latest “World Health Report- 2001” by WHO). “Psychosocial needs of the affected call for urgent attention,” he says.

“ The overcrowded camps present a very complicated scenario. The level of attention and care is not enough. The inhumane conditions in which the camp-inmates live are getting worse with each passing day. The fallout of the carnage is across all the sections of the community. However, the impact on children and women call for extra care. Despite unending violence, the resilience of the people in the camps (of communities with different religious identities) is appreciable. Urgent efforts need to be put to ensure basic sanitation, adequate supply of clean water, survival food needs and medical care. Health facilities to take care of the special needs of women must be stepped up. If efforts are not put the situation will deteriorate´ warns the report.

"There is a need to make the process of filing First Information Reports, claims and its judicious disposal simple. The family members of the survivors and the “victims” should be given enough time to file First Information Reports and other legal formalities. The survivors, most of them children and women, are going through a terrible trauma that may take more time to be in a state of mind to act” says Prof. Babu Mathew, a leading legal expert and a team member. “Justice is essential for the reconciliation process. Socio legal intervention should be an essential component of the healing process. It should contribute and not complicate recovery and rehabilitation process,” he says.

“Any effort to evolve livelihood programmes will go a long way in improving the general well being of the affected people. This will help the healing process as well. While initiating this, the concerns, opinions and capacities of the affected community should be taken into consideration. The interventions should have the scope for continuity from the relief to the rehabilitation phase” says Mr. David Selvaraj a sociologist and a team member.

“The situation in the camps is deteriorating with each passing day. Humanitarian needs of the affected call for urgent action. If unattended it can lead to an explosive situation. The global experience is that people die by many times in make shift relief camps than in the actual violence or conflict. Unattended relief camps are a nightmare for relief agencies world wide and ticking time-bomb of public health emergencies like epidemics,” says Dr. Unnikrishnan PV, a medical doctor working in humanitarian situations and a member of the team. “ Government has a responsibility to respond to the humanitarian needs” he said.

“The five public health emergencies in camp-situations (namely Measles, Diarrhoeal Diseases, Acute Respiratory Infections, Malaria, Malnutrition) take a heavy toll. Government must make efforts to respond and prevent epidemic outbreaks,” cautions the report. The situation is more complicated with the absence of support coming in from international specialist humanitarian agencies (like the International Committee of the Red Cross and MSF (Doctors Without Borders) who works in such situations. This is in sharp contrast to the response they all have shown after the earthquake last year.

“We are putting efforts to amplify the response. This is a huge challenge. We are still struggling with the ongoing work in the earthquake affected areas”, says G Sriramappa, Director of Oxfam India, a Bangalore based development and humanitarian agency.

“Independent reports by various fact-finding teams indicate that response is required at various levels. While relief needs to be mobilised for Gujarat, communal harmony and community preparedness is required everywhere. Agencies needs to come forward to work together” appealed Prof. Hassan Mansur, a leading Human Rights activist and facilitator of Bangalore Initiative for Peace and Relief (BIPR). BIPR is a coalition of ordinary people and civil society constituents.

The report recommends practical and pragmatic interventions. It also demands to follow universally accepted standards of disaster assistance for the Internally Displaced People this conflict left with. ( For example : Clean Water: Minimum Survival allocation- 7 litres / per person / per day & Minimum maintenance allocation- 15-20 litres / per person / per day. Food: Minimum food energy requirement for a Population totally dependant on food aid 2,100 kcal / per person/day)

The team conducted extensive field visits to the affected areas between April 19th and 23rd. During visit to the camps, team held discussions with the affected people, local administrators; Community Based Organisations and other people´s movements; Non Governmental Organisations and international agencies working in the region; teachers; human rights groups; government officials, media, and others. Extra efforts were put to balance the exposure by visiting the camps inhabited from people from different religious identities.

The gravity of the ongoing crisis in Gujarat is depicted in the cover page of this report. It shows the photograph of a 70- years old lady in one of the relief camps in Gujarat with the following quotation : “I stand in the midst of the cemetery; I stand for human beings; I stand for peace; but not for the peace of the cemetery.”

G. Sriramappa, Director: Oxfam India
Prof. Hasan Mansur, for Bangalore Initiative for Peace and Relief

For further information please call:
Mobile: +91 (0) 98450 91319
(Dr. Unnikrishnan PV, Co-ordinator : Emergencies & Humanitarian Action, Oxfam India)

Oxfam India numbers: +91 (80) 363 2964 & +91 (80) 363 3274