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Aug 23, 2012 at 08:17am IST

Assam: Riot victims now fight diseases, hunger

Chirang: Tired, traumatised, malnourished and sick - the children of conflict in Assam's relief camps are living in constant fear. Five-year-old Phulmala is hopes to return to her village one day. She still has her house keys hung around her neck.

She says she has been wearing the same frock for a month. "Our house is burnt. Our cattle is gone. We only get to eat rice and dal."

The toddlers at the camps, running high fever, have no one to attend to them. Many others suffering from diarrohea, fever and severe malnourishment are plain numbed by the trauma.

"My grand-daughter has been down with fever ever since we fled the violence. She doesn't even talk much these days," says a distraught grandmother.

The relief camp they stay in used to be a school. Now, the displaced people remain huddled in the classrooms, waiting for hope.

For the women, however, the more serious issue is of a complete collapse of their reproductive health.

Some sit dazed, some cry inconsolably. With their homes, hearths and husbands gone, the women only have each other in the camps they now call home.

A helpless Amina Bibi breaks down. She has just one sari and she says that she keeps tearing pieces off it to help her through her menstruation cycles.

"I just have one sari. During my periods, I tear portions of this and use," she says, tears welling up in her eyes.

Almost 26 women from the camp have delivered babies since violence broke out in July. Lalita wonders if she can ever nurse her child at home. "We just get to eat rice and dal. It's not enough. My child has cold. It's terrible living like this at a camp with a newborn," she says.

Even though the guns have fallen silent, the women and children are fighting a battle of their own, something that they did not choose, something that they are bearing the brunt of. And their sufferings do not seem to have an end.

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