Food scarcity stalking Karnataka's flood victims


"The proportion of food scarcity has been alarming in flood affected areas of north Karnataka. Floods followed the drought in north Karnataka, thus farmers could not sow their crops. Those who managed to sow their crop have lost it due to floods," Kshithij Urs, regional manager of ActionAid, an international NGO in Bangalore, told IANS.
Since 1979, after a proclamation by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), every year World Food Day is celebrated across the globe Oct 16.
According to an estimate of ActionAid, around 1.5 million flood victims are suffering from hunger and food scarcity since the devastation hit north Karnataka in September.
The Karnataka agriculture department has estimated the loss at Rs.250 billion in crop damage during the floods. It says the figure might rise further. Standing crops in 2.5 million hectares of land have been destroyed in floods.
An estimated 18 million people have been affected by the floods in 18 of Karnataka's 29 districts. Three days of torrential rains, followed by floods, beginning from Sep 30 left around 220 people dead in the state.
"The state is likely to fall short of the projected food production of 125 lakh tonnes for this year," an agricultural department official said.
"The combination of flood and drought earlier in the state proved to be fatal for the state. Under such conditions, poor people affected by floods are likely to suffer from hunger and food scarcity," he added.
As part of relief measures, the state government has released 65  tonnes of rice, 10,446 tonnes of wheat, 8,821 tonnes sugar, 23,444 kilolitres of kerosene so far.
"The food and essential items released by the government is to ensure food security in flood affected areas under the public distribution system," Karnataka Home Minister V.S. Acharya told reporters earlier here.
"To ensure that nobody remains without food, the flood affected families would be given a kit comprising 20 kg rice, 5 kg wheat, a kilo of pulses and sugar and five litres of kerosene and edible oil," added Acharya.
However, non-governmental organisations working in the area feel the government needs to come up with specific policies to ensure food security for the affected people.
"Unless the state and central government comes up with specific policies to ensure food security to poor people affected by natural calamities, it is difficult to provide even a square meal to these poor people," said Urs.
ActionAid has issued Rs.2 million as financial aid for the flood victims.
"Food insecurity in times of crises like floods can be handled with specific policies designed by the government," said Smitha Anand, Bangalore coordinator of Goonj, working for flood affected people.

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