London, Aug. 8: The charity Oxfam today launched a £1-million fund to help flood victims in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, with the help of Jenna Meredith, an Englishwoman, who feels she is “lucky” now she has been able to compare her plight with the much greater suffering of the poorest of the poor in Orissa.
Meredith (in Chris Worral/Oxfam picture), who was made homeless and lost all her possessions when her home in Hull was one of 17,000 properties hit in a flash flood on June 25, was sent to Orissa by Oxfam for five days last week to witness the submerged villages for herself.
She discovered that the “worst in living memory” floods in India were in a different category from the “worst in living memory” floods she had left behind in Yorkshire.
She said: “I have lost everything, but it’s nothing compared with what they have lost. When I arrived, an area the size of Britain was underwater. Twenty million people: that’s the entire population of northern England. Their homes, their livelihoods, everything gone. Hundreds of people have also lost their lives. When the families I met in Orissa were told that I, too, was a flood victim, they put their arms around me and consoled me. They still had the compassion and the heart to understand that I, too, had suffered, despite their suffering being 10 times worse.
“In the village of Dasapari, floodwaters broke through an embankment sweeping away hundreds of homes in a tidal wave. When I arrived, they were living in a long row of shacks covered with plastic sheeting. They were cooking using twigs and rubbish gathered from the riverbank.
“Walking through the remains of the village, Annapurna Beheri was one of the first women I met. She had lost the family home she shared with her mother, her two sisters and her children. The family’s bread and butter, their shop, was also gone. Like me, Annapurna was 40 and like me her life has been turned upside-down. I think myself lucky now.”