India is currently in the thicket of monsoons. Nevertheless, all of us are bewildered and shocked with the recent floods in Uttarakhand. Following the disaster, there has been a long and extensive debate as to whether it was a natural or manmade disaster. Before we analyse in detail, let us get certain terms right. A disaster is a sudden occurrence of destruction in a magnitude large enough to warrant external help. So, a disaster could be broadly of two major types- natural and man made. And in recent times, certain disasters that appear to be natural are eventually a resultant of man made activities. That apart, today, let us discuss about the external help that is important in a disaster.
A disaster is not a one-time affair. It is a cycle comprising of several activities to be carried out after and prior to any disaster. Moreover, any disaster management is not a one-man show and involves the entire functional system to contribute and cooperate. In a disaster cycle, a disaster is immediately followed by response, which consists of pitching in relief activities. The next stage is a recovery stage where the area of disaster is brought back to its normalcy and routine. Following this, disaster mitigation takes place, which involves developing a system where the chances of disaster are minimal. The last step in the cycle is preparedness for a disaster that could possibly occur in the near future.
In this current discussion, let us look at the first stage of the disaster cycle, which is the response stage or the relief stage. This stage consists of multiple levels. The first and the immediate activity following the disaster is the first aid. The aims of a first aid activity in a disaster are to-
1. rescue the injured/ affected individuals
2. rapid classification of the injured based on the severity of the illness-“triage”
3. early management of injuries and illnesses.
4. prevent further damage to the other individuals
The first aid in any disaster is often carried out by trained personnel from hospitals, armed forces, organizations like Red Cross Society, NCC scouts, etc. These activities must happen in a rapid phase, as to prevent further casualties and damage.
The next step in the relief phase is to provide basic amenities for the rescued. These include, food, clothing, shelter and sanitation. They are usually provided by the governments, armed forces, non-governmental organizations, philanthropists, etc. Here, there are a few key points to be discussed.
1. When it comes to supplying food, it is important to note that the food provided should not be a source of infection and other diseases, which will add trouble to the existing situation. This can be ensured by avoiding raw uncooked foods, meats, and foods that turn stale in a few hours. It is also important to provide foods which are locally available, simple to cook with minimal cost and not lavish and extravagant.
2. It is essential to ensure that the sources of water should be clearly demarcated and well protected in case of drinking water, in order to avoid infections.
3. When it comes to providing clothing, several NGOs and philanthropists provide with surplus of clothing, but sometimes it is not need based. The choice of donating clothing should be decided on the climatic conditions and the type of the disaster.
4. Sanitation is an important criteria when it comes to disaster relief, but often gets overlooked. It is important to ensure that the sanitary facilities do not act as a source of infection and at the same time, provide adequate privacy.
This would be an important topic to ponder for voluntary organizations and philanthropists who contribute their bit to the disaster relief activities and also for others to get motivated to contribute effectively in disaster management.