India: Drought Appeal No. 16/2003

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Launched on 20 June 2003 for six months for CHF 1,292,000 (USD 972,835 or EUR 833,259) to assist 75,000 beneficiaries (15,000 families)

The situation

A severe drought in several states in India over four and a half years continues unabated. The State of Rajasthan is the most affected, with over 4.8 million hectares of the post monsoon crop destroyed, and groundwater levels considerably reduced, affecting more than 43 million people and 54 million livestock. A joint Indian Red Cross (IRCS) and International Federation assessment late last year revealed that the drought affected population is capable of meeting just over half of their required nutritional needs, and the food security situation is deteriorating. The worsening drought conditions have caused a change in food consumption patterns among the people in the region. Many families have not consumed green vegetables for more than a month, and daily meals have been reduced to one per day. The local media reports numerous cases of people, and even whole villages, surviving on only wild grass.

In 2000, the Federation launched a request for international assistance for drought affected victims in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Orissa. With generous support mainly from ECHO, and the German and Norwegian Red Cross, the IRCS successfully provided relief assistance to 15,000 families in these three states. A full nutritional survey conducted jointly in 2001 by the International Federation, World Food Programme, Save the Children and Oxfam confirmed the prevalence of the acute malnutrition as a result of the drought. One of the remarks in the final report issued in mid 2002 was that the future programming to address the continuous food security issues in Rajasthan was considered at the time of the finalisation of the report. The conclusion of the drought operation in 2002 was designed to coincide with the arrival of the monsoon rains (July/August). However, the desperately needed rains failed to reach the most affected areas and the drought continued.

According to Indian Government sources, at least 12 states experienced little or no rainfall during the last monsoon season and an estimated 300 million people are still directly affected by the dry spell throughout the country. Successive droughts and their impact have largely eroded the coping capacity and economic potential of the people. Despite several ongoing state run relief schemes to ensure food security, malnutrition of the rural population due to prolonged drought is becoming a significant concern and will be taking its toll should chronic insufficiency of food intake continue.

The IRCS and its state branches, in collaboration with the Federation and participating national societies (PNS), have been monitoring the drought situation and maintaining information sharing and coordination with the government and NGOs. In November 2002 an Indian Red Cross/International Federation joint team conducted a drought assessment in the five most affected districts of Rajasthan.

This appeal is being issued on a preliminary basis to cover the immediate needs of some 75,000 of the most vulnerable population in Rajasthan. The intended operation will address the priority needs for food. Concern for the coming monsoon season as well as the potential seeds programme will be assessed over the coming days and incorporated in the revised operation.

Rajasthan is geographically the largest and the eighth most populous state of India. Eighty per cent of the population depend on agriculture and 19 per cent on animal husbandry for their livelihood. Over two million families live below the poverty line1 (1998 survey). There is an acute deficiency of drinking water, food and fodder. The following table2 depicts the most recent trend in the drought affected area (the cumulative impact of the continued drought has ravaged the very subsistence of the communities which, along with the limited livelihood access, poor health care facilities and rural infrastructure, has led to chronic insufficiency of food intake especially among women and children. Able-bodied men and boys are migrating in search of work, while women and adolescent girls manage households).

Drought affected districts
Drought affected villages
Drought affected population in millions

Food security

The rabi crop (pre-monsoon harvest) was adversely affected due to the intense winter in 2002, with yields further reduced by the scarce moisture content in the soil, resulting in a total reduced yield of 60 percent. For children and mothers, the impact of inadequate food intake is compounded by inequities in food distribution in the households as their food requirement comes after that of the more physically productive adults. They are the first victims of low food availability at the household level.


With most of underground water sources in the state drying up, surface water has become scarce. The situation will further worsen before the onset of the next monsoon rains. Many people in remote areas are forced to walk long distances to reach a water tank or a tube well. The erratic electricity supply is also affecting the utilisation of water from tube wells for human consumption. The unavailability of safe drinking water has emerged as the most important problem in 1/3 of the Rajasthan districts, resulting in a migration of the population. While this operation does not intend to directly distribute potable water, it will advocate for clean and safe drinking water, at the same time promoting effective interagency coverage for the needs.

Health and sanitation

Inadequate intake of food as a result of weakened purchasing power is affecting the general health of the population, particularly children and mothers. However, there are no indications of imminent epidemics or increases of infectious diseases at the moment. Health education remains a priority for the region, and this issue will be given more attention during the follow-up assessments.

Animal husbandry contributes over 19 percent to the net state domestic product. Rajasthan has, in fact, the highest livestock population in India, contributing nearly 40% of the total wool production and 10% of the milk production in the country. Scarcity of fodder, especially in western Rajasthan, remains the main problem faced by its population and has led to animals being abandoned. The average price of cows has decreased, and fodder is being imported into Rajasthan, resulting in price rises. Measures are being taken by the state government to provide nutritional feed to the cattle population through fodder depots but the support does not meet the demand.

The health status of the animals and the produce is thus decreasing and will be a major cause of mortality in the coming months.

Action so far (non Red Cross and Red Crescent)

The local government and the local agencies (NGOs) are making extensive efforts to provide relief to the drought affected villages in the entire state but the extent of relief is not meting the demand. In Rajasthan, the state government has implemented relief measures, including drinking the supply of drinking water, assistance to destitute and infirm persons, food for work programmes, nutrition and health programmes, social security schemes and cattle conservation. Some 2,609 fodder depots have been sanctioned in 12 districts. According to the Rajasthan state government, at least 800,000 people have been employed at state-provided relief projects that began in mid-August. Some 3,187 people have benefited through the distribution of 1,446 quintals of wheat. Water is being transported to 1,030 villages through 1,423 tankers benefiting almost 700,000 people. Some drought relief work this year aims to deepen ponds and wells and to build check-dams. Special attention is also being given to poor people, pregnant mothers and children through the integrated child development scheme (ICDS), midday meal programme, national old age pension scheme, the poorest of the poor scheme (372,000 families identified) and medicare cards issued for all 230,000 below poverty line families. Regular checkups are also arranged for laborers engaged on relief works through mobile medical team. A evolving fund for contingency supply of medicines has also be allocated.

A number of government departments, UN agencies, academic and research institutions, and NGOs, including CARE, Save the Children, Oxfam, ACT International and MSF, are planning their response. Few have conducted community level assessments. Planned interventions include food for work, water and sanitation, health and hygiene, water harvesting and irrigation, and agricultural inputs such as animal fodder. A number of organisations, including the Red Cross, are supporting government efforts in supplying water in 63 villages through 43 tankers and running 12 fodder depots.

Red Cross and Red Crescent Action

The IRCS branch in Pali district has been cooperating with the state administration to provide 10 to 15 tankers of drinking water per day to the below poverty line families in the villages for the past few months. The medicine bank of the branch has also been supplying free medicines to the below poverty line families treated by the primary health care centres.

In response to the request for assistance from the Indian Red Cross Rajasthan state branch an Indian Red Cross/Federation team were dispatched for a joint assessment, together with the state branch officials, during late November 2002. During the assessment trip, the team held extensive discussions with state officials and district administrators, NGOs, Red Cross branches, and conducted assessments in several villages of five district branches. In view of the gravity of the situation, the team, on return to Delhi immediately convened a meeting with the Indian Red Cross and Federation officials and presented the overall drought situation and the dire needs of the drought affected population. Recommendations were made to seek international support in form of food rations to supplement the government’s relief efforts.


A disaster response task force of Indian Red Cross and Federation staff has been established to closely monitor the situation with the National Disaster Management Control Room, UNDP, WFP and NGOs. Good coordination was initiated with the government authorities at state and district levels during the assessment phase. Situation reports have been shared with the authorities, UN organisations, international and local NGOs. The newly renovated and modernised Disaster Management Centre located, in the Indian Red Cross national headquarters building complex has been operationalized to assist and improve the coordination of relief efforts among the key disaster management agencies at national level. A series of inter-agency meetings have taken place involving the Indian Red Cross national headquarters and state and district branches on the drought situation to promote the humanitarian interventions of the Red Cross, to advocate for more effective coordination, initiate resource mobilization and share information. The Indian Red Cross also initiated a series of pre-implementation planning meetings with the state government and UN agencies. Developments of the drought situation have also been shared with a number of PNS field representatives for their collective support in the drought response operation.

The Needs

Immediate Needs

While the ongoing efforts of the local Government and many NGOs are addressing the water, sanitation, fodder and health issues, the food distribution is not sufficient. Crop failures are reaching 75 per cent, and there is an acute scarcity of food in the western region of Rajasthan. The Government supported food for work programmes started in August 2002, merely catering to the needs of the beneficiaries for 10 days in a month while the reach of the "food for work" programmes does not cover single parent families.


The joint IRC/Federation assessment carried out last year, showed that, with the existing resources, the population is only capable of meeting around 60% of their energy and protein needs. Therefore, the relief ration should cover approximately 40% of a 2,100 Kcal ration per person/per day (as recommended by the SPHERE standard). The amount of food needed per household/per day is as follows:

Millet (Bajra)
Lentils (Dal)
Soya been Oil
167 gr
67 ml

The Proposed Operation

With Federation support, the IRCS will provide relief assistance to the most vulnerable segments of the drought affected population in five Rajasthan districts, namely Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Pali and Nagaur through the provision of supplementary food to 15,000 families over a six month period.

Timeline: The relief operation has been divided into four phases - the initial 45 days for resource mobilization and procurement, followed by three food ration distributions for 45 days each. The relief operation is planned to finish by end October 2003.

Selection of beneficiaries: The assistance will be given to approximately 75,000 people living below the poverty line, who directly or indirectly depend on agriculture and have none or minimal work options to benefit from food for work programmes. Beginning with the below poverty line families, the selection criteria will focus on women-headed families and the physically disabled who have been left out of the relief net. The beneficiary list will be compiled by Red Cross volunteers, with the support of the local government. Verification of the beneficiary lists and monitoring of distributions will be done in close coordination with IRCS headquarters, state and district branch teams along with Federation. The IRCS has done a detailed survey of the various factors in the field. Based on the data provided by UN agencies, the IRCS has identified the following areas of intervention which are out of reach of any NGO current running programmes.

Relief assistance planned by the Indian Red Cross for a period of six months:

Name of the District
Number of blocks
Type of aid
Bajra, Dal, Oil
Bajra, Dal, Oil
Bajra, Dal, Oil
Bajra, Dal, Oil
Bajra, Dal, Oil

Operational Goal: to improve the food security of 15,000 households through the provision of food as an economic transfer thereby preventing the sale of assets and distress migration of the population.


Expected result 1: 15,000 drought affected households have received a food ration for four and a half months.

The IRCS intends to make three food ration distributions to 15,000 families (approximately. 75,000 people) in the five most drought affected districts of Rajasthan over a period of six months. Each family will receive one and a half months ration during one distribution. The food basket will consist of 30 kg of millet, 7.5 kg of lentils and 3 litres of soybean oil per household per distribution. The contents of the traditional food basket have been jointly agreed upon by the IRCS in consultation with the Federation’s delegation and the Rajasthan district branch secretaries, following the joint assessment.

Activities planned:

  • Facilitate community participation and the proper selection of beneficiaries.

  • Identify the most vulnerable beneficiaries.

  • Procure, deliver and store at district level.

  • Transport to the distribution points and distribute to the selected beneficiaries.

  • Facilitate adequate reporting from the district to state branches, and finally to the NHQ level.

Advocacy and Humanitarian Values

Expected result 1: increased awareness and understanding of impact of long-term drought leading to sufficient an adequate resourcing to help affected communities.

Activities planned:

  • Communication activities including press releases, stories in the Indian Red Cross and Federation publications and web site, interviews in broadcasting/print and electronic media.

  • Develop a documentary on forgotten disasters in the region, including the drought in Rajasthan, that could be used to inform donors, governments and organisations as to the impact of such crises on people.

  • Organize information sharing events that would include representatives from governments and donors that would increase support from diverse stakeholders for the most vulnerable communities in Rajasthan.

  • Organised events to include government representatives’ attendance in order to increase their understanding of the Red Cross/Red Crescent mandate, principles, values and related activities.

Expected result 2: Raised awareness of the Indian Red Cross’s role in addressing slow-onset disasters and in responding to the needs of the most vulnerable communities.

Activities planned:

  • The IRCS to act as a main channel for providing the needs of the most vulnerable drought-affected communities.

  • Establish linkages between beneficiaries and specialized organisations.

  • Dissemination of the Red Cross principles and humanitarian values among affected communities, the general public, the media, organisations and donors.

Capacity Building

Expected result: The disaster response capacity of the Rajasthan State Red Cross branch in five drought-affected districts is improved over a period of six months.

Activities planned:

  • Form a drought response cell at the Disaster Management Centre, IRCS headquarters to regularly monitor the situation in drought-prone states.

  • Train volunteers for relief distribution and community mobilisation (Community Aid First Training, Disaster preparedness raining, basic hygiene health education).

  • To link the IRCS state and district branches to the existing disaster monitoring system managed by other agencies.

  • To develop the existing capacity of the state and district branches in Rajasthan to respond to disasters.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The activities and indicators to monitor and evaluate the overall effectiveness of the IRCS and Federation drought relief operation include:

  • Clearly documented criteria regarding selection of beneficiaries checked by the IRCS along with the Federation.

  • Distribution of relief items monitored to ensure that targeting criteria is respected.

  • End-user monitoring through household-level visits and interviews to be carried out by Indian Red Cross volunteers.

  • Monitoring the effectiveness of the programme in meeting the needs of different groups within the affected population by national headquarters and Federation relief team based in Rajasthan.

  • The IRCS and Federation follow up in late 2003 to monitor the long term impact on the vulnerable communities, to be undertaken through post six month assessment.

  • Lessons learnt exercise to be undertaken by the Indian Red Cross at the end of the operation for future disaster response.

Capacity of the National Society

Indian Red Cross: The Society has changed significantly in the past few years. It is now earnestly focused on developing its disaster preparedness and management, organizational training and development, and administrative structures. With more than 650 branches and over 12 million members, it is one of the largest organisations in the country. The Society has experience in major earthquakes and emergency rehabilitation because of a high incidence of disasters, such as the Maharashtra Earthquake 1993, Orissa Super Cyclone 1999, Gujarat Earthquake 2001, 2000 and 2001 droughts, and flood relief operations of 2000, 2001 and 2002.

There are improved structures and systems established in the national headquarters to provide necessary guidance and technical support to the state branches in designing, implementing and monitoring the relief operations and managing the mobile medical units. The capacity at the district branch level varies with some being active with strong volunteer networks, while others need greater support from the national headquarters and state branches.

The Rajasthan State Red Cross branch has developed a strong human resource of committed, trained and committed volunteers. There are a large number of youth volunteers, and the branch emphasized gender balance in its recruitment of male and female volunteers during the last drought operation; this has improved its capacity to address the needs of women. The Indian Red Cross continues to learn valuable lessons in disaster preparedness and drought mitigation from relief operations carried out in the country.

Capacity of the Federation

The Federation delegation in the India Operations Centre (IOC) has 10 delegates engaged with the Gujarat earthquake rehabilitation operation and India countrywide programmes. They are assisted by a number of capable national staff working for the IOC, along with the spare delegate and staff capacity from the South Asia Regional Delegation. The IOC has been fully involved in monitoring and planning the response to the drought situation, and are on standby to be seconded on a short-term basis to support the implementation of this relief operation. The relief delegate originally deployed for the flood operation in Bihar and Assam of last year, which was concluded end of March 2003, is planned to oversee the drought operation in Rajasthan as well. However, additional staff will be required to support the Indian Red Cross at district level to implement the operation.

Budget Summary

See Annex 1 for details.

For further details please contact:

  • Indian Red Cross - Secretary General, DR Vimala Ramalingam, Phone: 91 11 2371 64 24; Fax: 9111 2371 7454; email:
  • Federation Delegation in India - Head of Delegation, Azmat Ulla, Phone: 91 11 2332 4213; Fax:91 11 2332 4235; e-mail: (India Earthquake HoD)
  • Federation Geneva - Tatjana Tosic, Phone: 41 22 730 4429; Fax: 41 22 733 0395;

All International Federation Assistance Operations seek to adhere to the Code of Conduct and are committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (SPHERE Project) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. In line with the Minimum Reporting Standards, the first operations update on this appeal will be issued within 30-days of the launch and the second will be issued over the course of the operation; a final narrative and financial report will be issued no later than 90 days after the end of the operation.

This operation seeks to administer to the immediate requirements of the victims of this disaster. Subsequent operations to promote sustainable development or longer-term capacity building will require additional support and these programmes are outlined on the Federation website. For support to or for further information concerning Federation operations in this or other countries, please access the Federation website at


BUDGET SUMMARY - India - drought APPEAL No. 16/2003
Food (Bajra, dal & oil) for 15,000 families
Programme support (6.5% of total)
Storage, loading, inspections
Expatriate staff
National staff
Travel & related expenses
Information expenses
Administrative & general expenses
External workshops & seminars