A message from the field & highlights of Bihar Flood relief campaign | GOONJ..a voice, an effort

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A message from the field & highlights of Bihar Flood relief campaign

Dear Friends,

Kindly take this mail as a token of appreciation for the overwhelming support people have given to GOONJ’s ‘RAHAT FLOODS’ campaign in Bihar.

It’s been more than a month that I’ve been traveling in the remote affected areas, with the help of boats, motorcycles or tractors. I can only tell you this is something unimaginable. It’s probably not right to call what’s happened in Bihar, as floods. It’s basically a large scale displacement where hundreds of villages now fall in the new path of the Kosi river. It’s not like normal floods where the excess water of the river creates problems rather it’s a disaster where hundreds of villages, thousands of houses are submerged in water and thousands of people and cattle have lost their lives. The scale, the suffering and the kind of devastation is mind boggling; even after a month, thousands are still stuck inside villages still submerged in water.

Imagine if Ganga stops flowing through Varanasi and changes its course to flow through Lucknow…what will happen to the land and the people of this new route???

I have to confess that even after witnessing and working in many disasters since 1991 I’ve never seen such scale, such tough terrain to work in. There is a sea of suffering with no end to the tunnel because these are not just victims of this disaster but most have been victims of extreme poverty for the last many decades…

The reality is that for many months the situation will remain grim. A state which hardly had electricity or pakka houses in the villages, a state which is a synonym of bad governance and minimal infrastructure, where in many parts women barely manage with a torn saree, where millions have not seen a doctor in their entire life; in short even before this disaster, life for many was already much below the normal living standard. Now there are over 20 lakh people homeless, on the roads, with the cloth on their back as their only possession.

GOONJ is not a big or international agency, it’s a small bunch of dedicated souls & a large number of dedicated volunteers, working 24×7 to do our best.. The way people took up our campaign and trusted our work has been heartening and extremely touching. We don’t believe in putting up big banners and working on the easily available aspects/areas. In Bihar also people/organizations know us for our focus on reaching places where no one has reached so far.

My appeal to you right now is to keep your patience with us; whether it’s getting your receipts or getting acknowledgements for material given. Be assured that with our limited resources we are on the job… We assure you that every single person/organization will get a due acknowledgement/credit/receipt. I do appreciate the corporate houses that have done tremendous proactive work to support our relief campaign. Many organizations have even motivated their employees to give one day’s salary to GOONJ. Thanks for all your sincere efforts; we assure you that every bit of your trust, material and money will reach the deserving people.

But I would certainly like to send out a word to a few CSR people who call up our office and ask questions like- “how far is Kosi river from Saharsa” and if they don’t get the exact no of kilometers they threaten to report my colleagues to me. Or the wife of a CMD of a public sector company who gave us some ration and clothes at a function with a lot of fanfare; three cameras, a speech delivered thrice to get the right flavor; resulting in wastage of precious time of a GOONJ team member. Or arguments on why a truck can’t be unloaded at 2.00 am in the night? Please do understand that our team is working round the clock under tremendous pressure and with very limited resources. They are also human beings and without any logical reasoning it’s not right to make uncalled demands on them. (The truck would anyway be allowed to move out in the morning only). A person from a reputed organization told us that they would give us their contribution at a special function organized for the purpose, for which someone from GOONJ would need to be present. When we said that we didn’t have an office in that city the person wanted someone to travel out or else threatened to give the money to some other NGO. My humble submission to such demands; kindly go ahead… My humble appeal is not to use this as the only opportunity to show how concerned we are. Good work always shows and one doesn’t need banners all around for that. The need of the hour is to spend our time and resources in the most effective manner.

We anyway never force you to give us everything and we certainly don’t see a disaster as an opportunity for raising money for GOONJ?

Besides, money alone can’t solve this problem. We need people on the ground to do something..

Many people have asked us for volunteer need in this campaign. Right now is the time for you to visit our stores to see the work and to help in sorting etc or visit the affected areas to take part first hand in the distribution and see how this operates.. The fact is 5000 kgs of rice may be a big quantity here in the city but when we give it in the affected areas; this is just a one-day meal for 10,000 people. Now imagine, we are talking about millions and their survival for a few months.

This is just the beginning- a possible outbreak of an epidemic and the approaching winters are going to be much bigger disaster in this region.. And even when the media attention is over GOONJ will remain in Bihar for a few months.

We have already initiated an additional campaign for the flood affected regions in Orissa and the demand might grow further… We have already sent 5 trucks of material to Orissa and many more will go.

Keep a track of us therefore and do continue your support…

Do refer www.goonj.info for first person reports from me and my colleagues and to know more about our ongoing activities & plans. Please also refer- Our relief work pictures

With best


Scale of our work-


* GOONJ is working extensively across many flood- affected parts of Bihar. Widespread work is going on in the worst affected 5 districts of Saharsa, Supaul, Madhepura, Purnia & Khagaria.

Our city patrons/partners

* Over 200 corporates, institutions, schools and hundreds of volunteers from across India and abroad have been a part of this campaign. GOONJ mobilizing 30 to 40 trucks of specific material from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahemdabad, Bhopal, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Amravati, Bangalore & many other cities.

Implementation on the ground

*GOONJ has mobilized its network with over 18 grassroots partner organizations/Panchayats/activists in Bihar with focus on reaching the completely cut off villages on a large scale.

* So far GOONJ has reached over 30 completely cut off villages using, boats, tractors, motorcycles, bicycles or even by walking on foot. Over one lakh kgs of food grains have already reached about 8000 families in these villages.

* A GOONJ packet is approximately 12 kgs, aimed at providing eatables to a family, for at least a week. To fill up gaps in relief material we are also giving a cooking vessel, a bucket, a glass and a plate with the same after assessing the needs in the villages.

* Distribution is taking place on the basis of a coupon issued by us after a proper survey and listing. The data base generated from this exercise will be used for the next phase of relief material; primarily clothing & woolens. This database will also be useful in our future interventions in these areas.

* Apart from supporting a kitchen in 3 camps for the first 15 days GOONJ is now focusing on filling up gaps in relief efforts in terms of ration, tarpaulin and other material in different areas.

* On September 7th GOONJ started first of its kind medical aid at Sukhasan village, about 15 km deep into the flooded area. Instead of waiting for people in the area to come out to the relief camps, this timely medical attention proved critical in saving lives. Furthermore, a new boat has been given to the village and the doctor is traveling to different waterlogged areas, in a 2 kms range. This new experiment has been able to support over 1000 patients. It has also helped in preventing forced evacuation due to illness apart from taking care of pregnancy and acute diarrhea cases in the village itself. Even after 5 weeks the village is still in a few feet water…

* Apart from supporting various organizations with material for their medical vans/ambulances, we are also supporting doctors in the relief camps with medical supplies. GOONJ’s cloth sanitary napkin (under its initiative ‘Not just a piece of cloth‘) is addressing a very widely needed and ignored requirement. We are tapping different health camps, vans and the women health worker network in the area to reach deep inside the villages. GOONJ ladies undergarments are also being given as an integral part of the napkin programme.

Mid & Long term plans- Apart from a large scale relief operation GOONJ has launched 3 long term initiatives in the area.

* Initiative VAAPSI: aims at bringing people back to their livelihood. An initiative finding a high level of acceptance among the flood victims, it focuses on generating large scale self employment in the area.

* GOONJ children’s activity centers: Aiming at one of the worst hit groups i.e. children, GOONJ has initiated the concept of creating a center for them – to play, read, learn and enjoy in various camps and villages. One such center is already operational on Beldor Nehar, (with SSVK, in a relief camp area in Madhepura). Another one is coming up in Pratapganj block, one of the worst affected areas of Supaul. Many more are in the pipeline across the region. GOONJ is providing tents, mats, clothes, toys, clothes slates & stationery etc for these centers.

* ’WARMTH’ campaign is aimed at dealing with the upcoming severe winters in the region. As part of this initiative GOONJ has conceptualized a family kit consisting of blankets, mats and woolens for the entire family.

Long-term approach: GOONJ is working through its immediate and mid term plans and has clearly defined long term plans in the flood affected areas (which spreads till March next year) with a cushion of extending it further, if needed.

* So far GOONJ has emerged as one of the biggest agencies working in the flood affected areas, on the long term. More than a month down the line, as the media attention is fading; many organizations/people are winding up their support work. GOONJ will continue its work here till March 2009, primarily keeping in view the winters; a disaster which is just round the corner.

* GOONJ has established linkages with volunteers from many cities as well as from within the affected villages and other grassroots organizations. They are working closely with us on information and coordination support. The packing of material has been decentralized at hubs in Triveniganj and Purnia apart from our base office and camp in Saharsa.

Breaking the Myth; Clothing is in excess in Bihar

* As always the reality is very different & as always clothing is still an ignored issue. The reality is, Clothing is needed on a big scale as over 20 lakh people don’t even have an extra pair to change into. This in turn is adversely affecting health and hygiene and skin diseases are most common here. Strangely not much appropriate clothing has reached the affected areas. In some cases it’s been the most inappropriate clothing thrown at people in a very humiliating manner. Apart from our main centers in Delhi, Mumbai & Chennai, GOONJ has now set up its own processing center in Saharsa, where volunteers from villages are involved in need based sorting of clothes and other material.

* GOONJ’s philosophy revolves around preserving the recipient’s dignity, therefore careful matching of material with the needs of the people, has been the focal point of our relief work. In turn this has ensured effective distribution with least wastage. In most cases material is going as part of family packs, based on information collected through family surveys.

Our TEAM- Mr. Anshu Gupta, Founder Director- GOONJ is personally supervising the relief operations, based in the temporary GOONJ camp in Saharsa (Bihar) together with key member Ajay Sharma and a few volunteers. GOONJ has a formal set with a team of 20 people, 18 big/small grass root organizations as partners and 7 storerooms in Saharsa with decentralized centers in Triveniganj, Pratapganj & Madhepura.

Further requirements-

Woolens & blankets, Milk powder, Toys- large quantity
Sarees & petticoat, Mosquito nets, Slippers, Slates, notebooks and stationery.

Anshu Gupta (Ashoka Fellow)
Founder Director


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