Travelling from Guwahati to Morigaon, I was mesmerised by the serene beauty of green hills, rivers, rivulets, and melodious sound of chirping birds. On reaching Jagiroad (highway), I was joined by CARE team members deployed for Assam flood response. We proceeded further to Morigaon to meet our local NGO partner, take stock of progress and plan for relief distribution, WASH awareness and post distribution monitoring. We jointly planned for distribution of hygiene cum dignity kits, shelter kits, water purification tablets and clean delivery kits in seven villages of Lahrighat, Morigaon. Next morning, we started for relief distribution at Pavakati village. The only way to reach

Pavakati and other targeted villages was by boat due to breach in embankment. Standing on riverside while waiting for boat when I enquired about the name of the river, I was shocked by the response by an old man from local community- “This is not a river. This is my village”. What seemed like a river was a village some time back. Many riverside villages had been washed away over the past few years.

India has been hit by the worst floods in a decade affecting 30 million people across many states. Lacs of people have been displaced as their houses have been submerged and damaged by flood water. Displaced people are living in camps or high elevation areas such as highways, embankments, school or other government building. Household items have been damaged or washed away. Some items that were kept at higher levels or on roof tops of houses with CGI and pucca roofs could be saved. People living in kuchcha houses under thatched roofs, however, were not so lucky. They lost everything and are at the mercy of others to help them survive. Tube-wells have been submerged and water sources contaminated. Getting clean drinking water is a challenge. Due to water logged surroundings and open defecation the drinking water continues to be contaminated with each passing day. Lack of potable drinking water and poor sanitation is leading to cases of diarrhoea, stomach infections and urinary tract infections. There is also an urgent need of sanitary items for women. Women, especially those lactating and pregnant, need proper care. Majority of the households do not have stocks of food grains and are dependent on relief from government and other aid agencies, which is inadequate.

CARE India is responding to floods in Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh by providing relief assistance to thousands of people from most vulnerable and worst affected communities. Relief package comprising water, sanitation and hygiene items, dignity items for women and girls, emergency shelter kits, dry ration and clean delivery kits for pregnant women in their third trimester are being provided.

Post distribution monitoring interviews done separately with adolescent girls revealed that the tarpaulins provided as a part of shelter kit are of great use for women and girls. For those taking shelter on embankments and other open spaces, emergency shelter kit helps in creating a shelter that protects from weather as well as ensures a separate private space for each family. When displaced families take shelter in school buildings or other Government shelters there is little privacy for women and girls. At that time, tarpaulins are used to create partition- private space for women and girls to change clothes, take bath and changing cloth or napkins for menstrual hygiene. 16-year-old Saleha Begum, said that she is glad that CARE has thought about specific needs of women and girls. “We all need food to eat and shelter to protect, but some of our needs are different. If everyone thought about specific needs of women and girls, there would be less suffering”.

CARE has been following the SPHERE standards and is committed to Core Humanitarian Standards (CHS) to ensure quality and accountability in all its humanitarian interventions, and strives to alleviate the suffering of women, girls, men and boys affected by disasters by providing safe and dignified access to relief assistance. From amongst the worst affected, CARE has specially focused on single women headed households, households having pregnant and lactating mothers, households with persons with disabilities, and people from socially excluded communities.

Eilia Jafar