The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flood ‘invite’ for NGOs

Bhubaneswar, Sept. 7: A week after Orissa’s coastal districts began floating on floodwaters, non-government organisations have decided it’s time to help out.

Some big-time NGOs, including CARE, have agreed to help with relief after the state government issued formal “letters of appeal”. The head of a leading NGO had criticised the government for not “inviting” them to “extend their hand of cooperation”.

However, during the 1999 supercyclone and even the floods two years later, the NGOs had not waited to be invited. Over 100 organisations, including some global NGOs, had raced to help. Many had even rapped the government for failing in its duty of “disaster mitigation” and “relief/rescue operation”.

This time, the scene is entirely different. Only 30-odd NGOs have chipped in so far. Many of the bigger organisations are nowhere to be seen.

Trying to explain the reason, a city-based NGO worker said the amount of voluntary activity was usually proportional to the amount of international funding. These floods had attracted neither much global attention nor funding.

“With floods having lesser appeal than the supercyclone due to lower casualty, the lack of interest is to be expected,” he said. Twenty-five people have died in the floods so far.

Although the effort seems to be to pass the buck to the government, NGOs had been requested to take decisions at their level in such cases of emergency. Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority managing director . Sanyal had urged the bigger players to chip in at a coordination meeting on August 29.

“However, the response has been low key,” a senior disaster mitigation authority official said. Nearly 40 NGOs have thronged the organisation’s office at Rajiv Bhavan since that day, but there has been little work in the field.

Even in Kendrapara, one of the worst-hit districts, very few organisations have been spotted lending a helping hand.

“I have not seen any NGO worker,” said Giridhari Mohapatra of Mugurai, a marooned village in Cuttack’s Nimapara block. In this village, local women and self-help groups were the first to help. In other areas, the youth clubs kicked off relief work.

The flood situation in the state remained grim with the number of marooned villages going up to 1138. Over 26.4 lakh people in 17 districts are affected.

Orissa chief secretary P.K. Mohanty said the situation was unlikely to change in the next 48 hours as rains were continuing in the lower catchment areas of the Mahanadi.

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