Cyclone Phailin devastated the Odisha coast in October 2013. ActionAid India Area Manager Debabrat Patra reports on how local fishing communities have started to rebuild their lives a year on after the tragedy.
In the aftermath of the cyclone, it became apparent that coastal fishing villages in districts like Ganjam, Odisha had born the brunt of the destruction. I visited the area just after the cyclone hit to find that many lives had been lost and the damage to houses, livestock, crops and infrastructure was overwhelming.
Devastation in Nolia Nua Gaon
Before the cyclone hit, the Government acted swiftly to save lives by shifting people to safer locations in cyclone shelters and schools. Even so, in the small fishing village of Nolia Nua Gaon, 18 fibre boats were lost, a further 25 were damaged and 120 households lost fishing nets and motors vital to their livelihoods.
After the cyclone, many of the villagers were understandably fearful of putting out to sea and some sold their boats. Unable to fish, they relied on occasional relief from the government.
Working together to rebuild lives
ActionAid led a consortium of five charities — OXFAM, ADRA, Plan, and Christian Aid — supported by the European Union (EU) to deliver the Phailin response programme. We wanted to help people in villages like Nolia Nua Gaon, where damage was greatest and livelihoods had been gravely affected.
We were lucky to partner with the local administration who helped us access subsidies that in turn enabled us to reach more people. We also worked closely with the local branch of the women’s organisation Samudram (state level federation of marine fisherwomen’s organisation) to identify those most in need.
What had the biggest impact?
We began by identifying the most vulnerable groups of people, especially in terms of caste, tribe, gender or age. We concentrated on supporting villagers to go back to work and providing them with access to drinking water, hygiene and sanitation.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was receiving support for repairs to fishing boats and nets which marked a turning point in local fortunes. So far we’ve been able to provide this support to almost all of the households in the village and we’ve made sure that local women were involved in every step of the process.
“We were so relieved that we did not (have to) go the money lender (at) a high rate of interest” says Ardu Kaleya, a fisherman in Nolia Nua Gaon, Ganjam, Odisha.
October 10th will mark the one year anniversary of Cyclone Phailin. Together with our partners and the community, we have achieved a great deal in that time, but there is much more still to do.