Floods are a fact of life in the northeast state of Bihar, one of the poorest regions of India. Every year, people die by drowning.
Oxfam Hong Kong has been working with villages on a disaster preparedness programme, such as providing basic supplies, including torches/flashlights, and working together to design inexpensive life jackets. Discussions with staff from the Integrated Development Foundation (IDF), a local group based right in Bihar, came up with this formula for a life jacket:
- 10 plastic 2 liter bottles (5 bottles for the front, 5 for the back)
- Fast-drying but thick cotton
- 3-ply thread
IDF sought the support of several local eateries to donate empty plastic bottles in bulk, and cloth merchants recommended a durable fabric that would not retain water for long.
At first, villagers were hesitant to make the life-jackets. They had never seen anything like it before. But now, after several lives have been saved, the home-made jackets are in demand. IDF is conducting training on this and other basic disaster preparedness measures.