R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, May 22 - With the threat of floods looming large amidst the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, the Assam government has sent a detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) to the Deputy Commissioners and Sub Divisional Officers on identification of relief camps to house flood and erosion-affected people and the ways to maintain social distancing to avoid spreading of the pandemic. The SOP clearly states that the buildings and spaces, which are now being used as quarantine centres, should not be identified as relief camps.
Official sources told The Assam Tribune that this year providing support to the flood-affected people would be tougher because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of relief camps will have to be reduced and regular checkup of camp inmates would have to be carried out to prevent spreading of COVID-19.
The roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders have been well defined in the SOP prepared by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).
Before the floods, all the Deputy Commissioners and Sub Divisional Officers will have to identify the relief camps with provisions for child friendly spaces and functional coordination should be established among all the concerned departments and organisations. The officers concerned have been directed to ensure that camps are safe from all hazards and accessible to both the affected people and service providers.
The intake capacity of the camps should be well defined and notified well in advance because of the need for maintaining social distance. District level monitoring teams should be set up to ensure proper management of the camps, which should be well documented.
The SOP said that arrangements like lighting, toilet facilities for male and female, separate food arrangement for children, pregnant women and sick people, sanitary provisions, security arrangement, waste management facilities, etc., should be ensured in all camps. The identified camps should be disinfected properly.
The Deputy Commissioners have been asked to procure relief items and pre-position it in strategic locations with a well thought out transportation plan.
The SOP pointed out that most of the conventional relief camps are located in the buildings of educational institutions and deserted office buildings. Such camps will not be enough to provide shelter to all the affected people in view of the present situation and the SOP said that localised alternative arrangements would have to be made well in advance.
“In view of the COVID-19 situation, managing relief camps with social distancing will be a major challenge. That is why, people should be encouraged not to leave their homes just because their front yards or boundaries are submerged. Such people should be provided relief as per norms,” the SOP said.
The SOP also spelt out the detailed guidelines for camp management and to ensure that all inmates get the required facilities and health care.