How can food security be ensured during disasters?

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Specialists are required to assist and advise in surveying the availability of local food and relates supplies and in supervising their collection, storage, transportation and distribution. This would involve collecting food from donors, government controlled stocks or trade sources, moving it to the locations where required, using various agencies for its carriage and other related activities.

One agency whose contribution to disaster relief is often ignored is the effort put in by the community itself in taking care of the needs of the less fortunate among them. The village elders representing the community often organize their own relief and rescue operations till outside held can reach them. In this foodstuff is their major contribution where they pool in the available food and distribute it.

The formal and informal linkages that bind the community together are of great help in such situations. However, over a period of time the role of community participation has come down in organizing food collection and increased dependence is visible on organized activity from government and NGO sources. The organization may send food as an emergency aid or they can pre-locate the food for use when disaster occurs.

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Government Food Stocks

Large amount of food stocks including some buffer stock is maintained by government agencies like the food Corporation of India. These are the primary source from where the bulk of the food is collected, on instructions of the government, by the local administration for use amongst the affected population. It may be financed by either central or state government or party by both.

This may be brought to the open market for sale to check against price rise and shortages in retail outlets. Also, certain quantities may be distributed as outright relief to the needy people or offered under “food or work” programmes.

The government administration monitors the overall food situation in its disaster management strategy. All food brought or intended to be brought for the disaster relief is coordinate by the local administration. Other agencies assist the local authorities in procuring suitable transportation, handling and storage requirements.

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Food Security

Food security is an important issue in disaster management for ensuring a balanced and nutritional food. This implies that people have access to sufficient quantities food, when they need it and at a price, they can afford. Principal conditions to be satisfied for achieving food security are:

I. The supply of foodstuffs should be adequate to meet the demand.

II. Fluctuations in seasonal food supply should be minimized, and reflected in relatively stable seasonal food prices.

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III. The population should have access to food supplies, either through adequate real income or, through targeted programmes such as food for work programmes.

The overall objectives of short-term relief measures should be to provide to the people access to food by ensuring the availability of food in the affected area and protecting the entitlement of groups within the affected population. Some of the principal measures for maintaining food security include.

  • Price stabilization
  • Food subsidies
  • Employment generation programmes
  • General food distribution
  • Supplementary feeding programmes
  • Special programmes for livestock and pastoral, e.g., fodder banks, “Gaushalaas”
  • Complementary water programmes
  • Complementary health programmes

Food security interventions in many areas are being implemented as part of their general development and welfare programmes and are potentially capable of expansion to serve as key components of a disaster relief strategy.

How rapidly such an expansion can be implemented will in part reflect the amount of preparedness planning that has been carried out in advance.

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