Camping in the middle of a street roundabout in the area worst-affected by the Patna flood, a team of doctors and medical staff, drawn from different parts of the country, are rendering yeoman service to provide relief and succour to the affected people.
Mumbai-based Doctors For You, a nation-wide humanitarian organisation which has provided services in several disasters in the last few years, started an OPD camp on September 30 just outside the Rajendra Nagar overbridge roundabout when practically the entire city was inundated.
"We were getting a huge number of patients in the OPD, and we realised, some of them needed greater medical assistance, so two days later we started an IPD service in a camp inside the roundabout, along with a small office in another tent,” Dr Ravikant Singh, founder of DFY, said.
Singh, a Patna native, said his home is in Bazaar Samiti area, neighbouring Rajendra Nagar, the area worst affected by the flooding, where people had to wade through chest-deep water in the initial few days or take help of boats for evacuation.
"We have six boats and two of those were deployed with our own rescue team to reach to people stranded in flooded houses. Besides, we have been giving sanitary pads to women who visited our camps and delivered pads to those left stranded in their homes,” he said.
The DFY team, numbering about 15, consists of two doctors, a nurse from Assam, and rescue and other medical staff from Kerala and other parts of Bihar, and a few volunteers, said, Dr Keshav Kumar, adding there is an ambulance too.
Kumar and Singh jointly are seeing hundreds of patients every day and concurred that the most common medical problem people are facing is skin infection and allergy.
"Most of the patients complained of skin infections as they have either spent too much time in the waters, dirty no less or allergy due to presence of sewerage waste and carcass in the water,” Kumar said.
Besides these two issues, people are coming with cases of dehydration and abnormal blood pressure, diarrhoea and in some cases severe wounds that needed stitching.
"Though the water level is receding, and in many areas it has dried up, the waste left behind is another threat. So, many patients came here who had stepped on a glass shard or a piece of iron in the water, and so feet injuries are getting reported more,” Singh said.
Kumar, who hails from Begusarai, alleged that the flooding has exposed the "failure of civic body" but it will be a “bigger failure” if authorities do not take the precautions that need to be taken after the receding of water, which includes proper spraying of disinfectants, checking quality of supply water and quick and proper disposal of leftover waste.
Singh, who has worked in several calamities in India and the deadly 2015 quake disaster in Nepal, said setting up the camp itself was a challenge as the Ramavtar Shastri Roundabout had been lying unkempt for decades, with thick vegetation grown inside it, and local people and police helped us set up the camp.
Young and old, men and women, many accompanied by children stand in queues in the street outside waiting to be attended to at the OPD camp while corporation carry out fogging at regular intervals, wrapping the camp in a cloud of smoke.
Kumar said, the team arrives at the camp in the morning and stays till about 10 pm, adding, “about 2,000 patients have been attended to at the camp since it was set up”.
DFY was established in 2007 by doctors, medical students and like-minded people with a vision of 'health for all' and provides medical care to people during crisis situations.
"This is our seventh intervention in a humanitarian disaster or crisis this year, prior to that we worked in Odisha's Cyclone Fani, the AES crisis in Muzaffarpur, Assam floods and floods in parts of Maharashtra,” Singh said.
The doctor said, he established DFY inspired by the global Paris-based non-profit organisation 'Doctors Without Borders' which has contributed to the cause of humanity through its great services in times of huge disasters.
"You can say, DFY is like MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders). Our team consists of people from several parts of the country and we are both driven by the same values,” he said.
Asked about the sanitation facilities for the team, he said, local people have been supportive to allow us to use their washrooms, but “we are getting our own toilet facilities soon”.
Most of the team members after finishing work, go to the DFY's facility on the outskirts of Patna, while a few stay in the camp to keep guard, as “we have food, medicine supplies and water stocked there,” Kumar said.
Asked what possible threat Patna faces after the water level recedes, he warned that if proper precautions are not taken, “one can see sudden cases of cholera, typhoid, malaria, leptospirosis, among other ailments”.
A local woman volunteer who is studying social services, and assisting DFY, said, “Patna should learn lessons from this flooding. It is easy to blame the government but are people not responsible for choking of the drains. It is time for solidarity and introspection”.