Brahmaputra’s orphans

The yearly floods expose Assam's fragile health care system.

As the plane prepared to land at Dibrugarh on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra, Assam looked like an ocean. The mighty river had overflowed. Paddy fields and villages lay submerged as far as the eye could see. Entire communities, along with their livestock, were living perched on bamboo platforms on stilts or changs.

Statistics on Assam's annual floods rarely reveal the true tragedies that engulf the lives of people in this troubled and neglected part of India. As elsewhere, the state has abdicated its responsibility in providing health care and health education to the poor. Elsewhere in India, public philanthropy at least may work to provide some facilities for the poor, but here in India's Northeast they just die quietly.

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Himal Southasian