International aid for Pakistan refugees in India is beginning to have a noticeable effect on the critical situation there -- although the position still remains serious, especially for the authorities in Calcutta.
International aid for Pakistan refugees in India is beginning to have a noticeable effect on the critical situation there -- although the position still remains serious, especially for the authorities in Calcutta. For in this largely slum city, poorest and most over-populated in the world, there is a very real danger that the cholera epidemic among the refugees will spread widely among the five million Indian residents. This film, shot yesterday, (June 8) shows part of the massive international relief operation taking place in an effort to cope with and contain the multiple crises of cholera, starvation, overcrowded refugee camps and shortage of medical supplies.
SYNOPSIS: The Pakistan refugee crisis in India continues...although reports from the area indicate that, with the help of massive international aid, the situation is being contained. Food and medical supplies are beginning to reach refugee camps like this one -- at Calcutta's Dum Dum airport -- and the death toll from the cholera outbreak appears to have reached its peak at about 8,000.
Among problems caused by the influx of about five million refugees are the cholera outbreak, malnutrition, dysentery, conjunctivitis -- that's an eye disease causing temporary blindness -- and lack of food, shelter and medical supplies. The situation meanwhile, has drawn reaction from all over the world. Several international government and charity teams are working among the refugees: supplies of all sorts have been airlifted in by the ton; millions of pounds sterling worth of aid has been collected and promised; and world leaders have suggested varying solutions to the problem including airlifting overcrowded refugees to other parts of India.
In Calcutta for example, over-crowded refugees have spilt over into the city and taken over blocks of flats like this one. Indian authorities, fearing a spread of cholera among the local residents, have rushed emergency vaccination teams to such areas.
But the situation, according to Indian authorities, is coming under control. One British charity, for example, has been told not to send any more doctors and nurses to the disaster area as there were sufficient Indian doctors to cope. For the same reason an Australian offer of medical teams was rejected by the Indian Government. On the international political front, the United Nations Secretary-General has proposed a disaster relief centre to be set up next year to deal with crises like this one, and Indian Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi has said the responsibility for the present situation must rest with world governments -- not just India. At the same time, she accused authorities in East Pakistan of re-distributing property belonging to the refugees after they had fled the country.
As aid continues to pour in -- like this United States military aircraft arriving in New Delhi -- Britain's foreign Secretary has praised India for "exercising restraint" in its relations with Pakistan -- which India blames directly for the crisis. India's Foreign Minister, however, has called for the Pakistan Government to take its share of responsibility for the situation, he said, that it alone created.