Sanitation and disasters: a case study of community and institutional response to Cyclone Phailin, Odisha 2013
There is a new shift in political interest in sanitation in India with the newly launched Swacha Bharat Abhiyan on 2 October 2014. Given this renewed interest, this paper investigates the specific context of a post-disaster situation and approaches to sanitation using the case study of Odisha, India. Progress in sanitation when juxtaposed with a disaster relief and recovery situation depends upon the socio-economic conditions, community practices in sanitation and hygiene, and political response to sanitation and disasters. This study uses empirical evidence gathered in the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin in 2013. The evidence was collected through focus group discussions with communities, interviews with local non-governmental agencies, and meetings with agencies. The emerging data helps in analysing the strengths and weaknesses of sanitation in the post-disaster context in Odisha, and links the evidence to pre-existing chronic issues including open defecation practice and other socio-economic disparities.
Post-disaster relief and recovery operations seldom focus on women’s priorities regarding menstrual hygiene. There is an increasing awareness to incorporate inclusive, participatory, and gender-sensitive strategies for implementation of response programmes. This article presents empirical findings related to menstrual hygiene management (MHM), demonstrating it is integral to women’s privacy and safety during recovery. Using case studies from India, the 2012 Assam floods and 2013 Cyclone Phailin in Odisha, this article explores menstrual hygiene practices in a post-disaster context. The data were collected through participatory learning and action tools such as focus group discussions, household interviews, priority ranking, and observations. It emerged that menstrual hygiene was overlooked at the household level during recovery; women and adolescent girls faced seclusion and isolation, exacerbating privacy and security concerns post-disasters. Some humanitarian agencies have an ad hoc approach towards MHM, which is limited to distribution of sanitary pads and does not address the socio-cultural practices around MHM. There is a need for strategic planning to address MHM with a gender-sensitive and inclusive approach. This article draws practical and policy inferences from the research for stronger approaches towards initiating behaviour change in MHM, and addressing attitudes and knowledge regarding menstrual hygiene.