By Ika Koeck, IFRC @IkaKoeck
Alone and vulnerable
When murky, brown water began to trickle down the road leading to her house, 80-year-old Che’ Moh Awang Chik assumed that it would recede as soon as the rain stopped. Having lived in a flood-prone area for most of her life, she was no stranger to minor flooding. But when the rain turned into a deluge that lasted several days and the floodwater began to rise, she knew she was in trouble.
“I never imagined it would rise so fast here in Dusun Nyiur,” she said. “In just one night, the flood rose from being ankle-deep to waist-deep. I thought then that it would be just as bad as the floods in 2004.”
The December 2014 disaster turned out to be worse, displacing 230,000 people and inundating Kelantan State and several others in the East Coast of Malaysia. Located in the Kuala Krai district in Kelantan, Dusun Nyiur was one of the worst affected villages, with water levels rising to more than 30 metres in certain areas. To make matters worse, Awang Chik lived alone and had no family member to help her.
“When a rescue boat found me and took me to the evacuation centre, I escaped with the clothes on my back, my handbag and my prayer garment,” she said, her eyes brimming with tears as she recalled the incident. But when I came home, I had no house to return to, and no one to help me. The flood had taken everything away.”
Awang Chik’s situation was not an isolated case. Malaysian Red Crescent Society’s Flood Officer, Nik Mohd Mustakim, explained that most of the villagers in Dusun Nyiur consist of the elderly. “Some are single old women with no other relations, while others remain here as their children move to the city to find work. The stress during an emergency is bad enough. Now, even with the recovery phase well underway, the elderly community remains the most vulnerable.”
In the immediate aftermath of the floods, the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) distributed 1,000 hygiene kits, blankets, kitchen sets, 500 mosquito nets, and built 44 temporary shelters in its three adopted villages within the state. A Conditional Cash Transfer Programme granted 74 households RM 2,000 (USD 530.00), which have been used by most of the villagers to repair their homes and purchase household and kitchen appliances.
Simple errands turn into mammoth tasks
For 75-year-old Esah binti Husain, the flood presented a different threat. While cleaning the mud left behind on her bathroom floor, she slipped and fell, breaking her hip. The accident left her bedridden, and she now relies on her son and grandchildren to look after her.
“We can only do so much,” said her son, Osman. It’s heart breaking to see her like this. She can’t walk and I worry about what would happen to her if another disaster hits.”
Even simple, daily errands present a challenge to the elderly. The nearest market and hospital is 5 kilometres away. Without any transportation of their own, they have to once again depend on the kindness of their neighbours to take them out of the village.
To address long-term needs in Kelantan, an area prone to seasonal flooding, the Red Crescent plans to implement programmes which will help communities prepare for future disasters. These programmes include health and hygiene promotion activities and improvements to water and sanitation facilities.
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