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AUICK First 2010 Workshop
City Report and Revised Action Plan
Chennai, India

Chennai AUICK Workshop Participants

Dr. Charumathy Baskaran
Deputy Project Coordinator, District Family Welfare Bureau, Corporation of Chennai

Ms. B. Jothi Nirmalasamy
Deputy Commissioner, Health and Family Welfare Bureau, Corporation of Chennai





Chennai has developed good infrastructure for maternal and child health care. Improvements will be made to the provision of this care during flooding and other disasters, through a revised Action Plan.

1. The City

A maternal health clinic awareness program in Chennai
A maternal health clinic awareness program in Chennai

Chennai is the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu. It has a metropolitan population of 5.7 million people, of which 25 per cent are classified as living in slum conditions. The low lying areas of the city are prone to floods during the annual southwest monsoons from November to January. The civic authority, along with Government and NGOs, carry out relief works, providing food, shelter and medical emergency services. Storm water drains have been built all over the city, and many existing drains have recently been reconstructed. 

The major unexpected natural disaster to hit the city was the Sumatra Earthquake Tsunami of 26 December, 2004. Chennai is only four feet above sea level, and the disaster caused huge loss of life and damage to property. The Tsunami was a trigger for the city to revive disaster management strategies. Housing schemes for coastal residents have been taken up as an emergency measure, and the Government, with the help of private organizations, has constructed permanent, non-vulnerable houses for the Tsunami affected people, which has improved the living conditions of those below the poverty line. 

Chennai has good infrastructure with regard to maternal and child health. A standard health system is implemented, and the Government and Corporation of Chennai cater to the health needs of middle and lower income groups. The private hospitals of the city attract patients from all over the world, especially in the fields of cardiology, ortho, renal and neurology. 

Infant and maternal mortality rates are lower in the city compared to state and national levels. The wellequipped hospitals handle all cases of maternal and child emergencies, and training of medical and paramedical workers on new technologies, as and when required, has paved the way for improvement in this field. 

Disaster preparedness planning for MCH care has already been included in policy decisions, and training programs at all levels are being undertaken. Problems faced are related to (1) conservative practices in families; (2) low awareness regarding hygienic practices; (3) everything happening seen as "fate" or left to "God"; (4) non-cooperation in times of mock-drills; and (5) family decisions being taken only by men and older women.

2. Action Plan Progress

During the Second 2007 Workshop an Action Plan was developed to create a structure to plan for maternal and child health care during the predictable annual flooding, focusing on the preparedness for the first 48 hours, before outside help arrives. It successfully conducted the following steps:

- evaluation of the risk of cyclone or tsunami flooding for all areas of Chennai; 
- mapping of high risk and safe areas using Airborne Laser Terrain Mapper (ALTM) technology, which will lead to flood mitigation works in vulnerable areas; 
- identification of 43 schools in elevated areas for use as safe shelters; 
- planning for mobilization of relevant officials through District Coordination Committee meetings with various organizations, mock drills by emergency services, readying of cyclone shelters, media participation and inter-departmental coordination planning; 
- stock piling of medicines and water, machinery and equipment at designated shelter areas; 
- provision of sanitary facilities at shelters for women and children who have special needs; 
- development of individual disaster plans by relevant agencies, integrated with the citywide plan; and 
- appointment of local disaster coordinators responsible for linking Government and NGO services at the local level. 

Some issues have inhibited the Action Plan's comprehensive implementation. There was difficulty in locating evenly distributed safe shelter areas in all of the flood prone areas, and some shelters were distant or inaccessible to slum residents. Sanitary facilities are still not sufficient for women and children with special needs, and are prone to cause diarrheal diseases during flooding. Some agencies have developed disaster prevention plans without proper documentation, and the integrity of some local NGOs involved is also sometimes questionable.

3. Proposed Action Plan Revision

Revisions to the Action Plan focus on redressing these issues by locating evenly distributed safe shelters, increasing sanitary shelter facilities for women and children, providing MCH in disaster training to relevant agencies and women's self-help groups, and obtaining community support for transporting, relocating and rehabilitating mothers and children in disaster situations. Further to the original Plan, steps will also be taken to improve flood water management, by distributing flood maps to stakeholders, and constructing storm drains and flood-resistant concrete housing for slum dwellers. The effects of flooding will be mitigated by ensuring the free flow of water from the city through the improved drainage system of storm water drains and de-silted waterways. 

The Plan will be implemented by the Health and Family Welfare Department of Chennai Corporation, with zonal administrators, the Revenue, Police and Public Works Departments, Metro Water, the Slum Clearance Board and the Electricity Board. The Commissioner of Chennai Corporation will be the official coordinator and NGOs / community organizations will participate. 

Funding for the Plan will be allotted by the city, state and central governments, and after its implementation in Chennai City, the Plan's expansion to the Greater Chennai area of 6,200,000 people will be proposed. Local media and religious groups will promote the Plan to increase public support, colleges will partake in disaster training and mock drills, and medical students will enroll as volunteers to offer help during times of disasters. Lists will also be drawn up of possible blood donors and their blood groups. The Plan will be monitored by local councilors, heads of each relevant department at the city and state level, and the Mayor and Commissioner of Chennai Corporation.

Chennai Action Plan Time Frame: June 2010 – December 2011
Weihai Time Frame

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