Food situation in South Asia following floods ‘serious cause of concern,’ UN reports
The food situation in South Asia, where torrential rains resulted in deadly flash floods and landslides that affected more than 28 million people, gives “serious cause for concern” because of the loss of animals and unfavorable crop prospects following damage to recently planted crops, according to the latest United Nations update.
“Opportunities for replanting once the water has fully receded are limited as the sowing period of the main cereal season normally ends in July in India and Bangladesh and by mid-August in Nepal,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a news release.
Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed deep concern about the continuing threat from hunger, disease and malnutrition for the millions of children and women affected by the flooding which has killed almost 2,800 people in the three countries and Pakistan.
In Nepal, the affected agro-ecological zone of Terai (plains) is the country’s grain basket, accounting for over 70 per cent of the total production of rice, the basic staple. Though water levels have receded from the second week of August, thousands of hectares of agricultural land have been destroyed at the peak of the planting season, FAO said.
While a detailed assessment of crop losses is not yet available, the overall outlook for this year’s production has deteriorated. At sub-national level, food shortages in the Terai, affected by drought and floods in 2006, are likely to worsen.
In Bangladesh, preliminary official estimates indicate that some 854,000 hectares of rice paddies have been lost to floods and another 582,000 hectares partially damaged. In aggregate, the area affected represents some 13 per cent of the total planted area, seriously compromising prospects for this year rice production.
In India, where the three worst flood-affected states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam account for roughly a quarter of the country’s total rice production, preliminary reports indicate that about 1 million hectares of cereal land have been submerged in Bihar alone.
While this year’s cereal production is likely to be reduced in these three north-eastern states, output at national level will depend on weather conditions in the coming months, according to FAO.
UNICEF and its non-governmental organization (NGO) partners, concerned that standing water could become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and waterborne diseases, are coordinating the Government’s relief efforts in India by providing support for health, nutrition, water and sanitation. This includes tarpaulins, water purifying agents (tablets, powder and solutions), oral rehydration salts, family hygiene kits and essential medicines.
In Bangladesh and Nepal, UNICEF is providing similar drugs and working on a post-emergency early recovery and reconstruction plan.