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South Asia Drought Appeal No. 17/2000: Final Report

Situation Report
Originally published


This Final Report is intended for reporting on emergency appeals.
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Launched on: 6 July 2000 for 6 months for CHF 5,603,930 to assist 80,000 beneficiaries.
Period covered: 6 July 2000- April 2002.


Appeal coverage: 29.3%
Related Appeals 01.24/2002: South Asia Regional Programmes; 20/01: India Earthquake Rehabilitation; 32/2001: Afghan Crisis; 1.28/2002: Pakistan Annual Appeal

A slow response to the appeal hampered the launch of the operation to assist the drought affected population. Support from among others ECHO, German Red Cross, Norwegian Red Cross, the Gates Foundation provided the necessary impetus for the operation to succeed.


This report summarises operations in India and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, a drought relief operation was proceeding in the worst affected areas focusing on provision of food and non-food items, together with deployment of mobile medical teams. In November 2000, a joint agreement was signed with the ICRC relating to the drought operation which is reported on separately in co-operation with the ICRC.

In India, as a result of an assessment conducted by the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) and a Federation assessment in December 2000, the operation was extended to cover an additional state, Orissa. During the same month a Federation/IRCS assessment in all three drought affected states (Gujarat, Rajasthan and Orissa) was carried out. As a result, the priorities for the operation compared to those stated in the Appeal, which had been launched seven months earlier, were changed to reflect findings made during the assessment.

The programme was intended to distribute supplementary food thereby improving the nutritional status of the most vulnerable. It was learned, however, that the distributions were often the only food to which they had access during this period. Therefore the operation in India was extended to meet the urgent needs of 20,000 families, with the average family size calculated to four persons. Another change compared to the appeal was that the planned distributions of mixed seeds to 4,000 families and the establishment of a nutritional monitoring system were taken out of the Plan of Action in order to make priority for the mentioned food distributions.

In Pakistan the original objective stated in the appeal was to support 50,000 beneficiaries. Following the response to the appeal, the plan of action was changed to target some 205,000 beneficiaries (or 37,862 families). In summary; the operation came to target more beneficiaries than the expected numbers in the appeal.

Food distributions, in general, in both countries were well organised and carried out successfully. In Pakistan the distributions were finalised by March 2001 while in India they were completed in July.

The reasons for operational delay in India was the major earthquake disaster which hit the State of Gujarat in January 2001 causing a halt in the drought operation. Delays were also caused due to administrative reasons.

The Context

From early 2000 onwards, severe drought affected vast areas of South Asia, including western India, southern and central Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. Although the monsoon rain during the summer of 2000 improved the situation in some parts, drought continued to prevail in many places in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, as well as in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan. The drought seriously affected the livelihoods of the population in those areas.

The situation was further compounded by the fact that the water-table had receded dramatically and traditional water catchments had gone dry. As a result, the practise of rain-fed agriculture became increasingly difficult. Rural people faced a real threat to their food security while a distress sale of livestock became rampant - in India a cow that would cost abut Rs 12,000 became available for Rs 1,000, a twelfth of the price. A government cattle feeding programme was established in order to ease the existing fodder problem in the area.

In India the drought in most areas was eased by the monsoon rains of the summer 2000. However, the monsoon failed to make any significant difference to the situation in some areas, particularly the district of Kutch in Western Gujarat and certain districts in Western Rajasthan. The majority of food for work programmes or relief camps established by the state governments of Gujarat and Rajasthan closed at the onset of the monsoon. These sites provided drought victims with some employment on projects such as the construction of roads, entitling them to limited wages in cash and subsidised cereals.

As a result of the large numbers of people affected by the drought, many families could not benefit from the government programme. Some 7,500 villages spread over 145 talukas (blocks) in 15 districts were severely affected during year 2000.

Based upon a report made by the Orissa Red Cross State Branch in December 2000 it became clear that Orissa state was equally in need of assistance as those states initially identified in the appeal.

Like in some areas in India, the drought in Pakistan and in neighbouring Afghanistan had been developing for some years though awareness of the severity of the situation peaked during the first quarter of 2000. The causes of the drought can be attributed to a combination of natural factors, principally the scarcity of rain for several years, and man-made factors such as deforestation and overgrazing, the erosion of traditional rainwater harvesting systems, the indiscriminate construction of tube wells and the promotion through government subsidies of water-intensive cash crops in arid areas. Consequently, the result was a crisis situation.

Water scarcity affected different areas and groups of people in various ways and to different degrees, but a number of problems were common. In the case of settled farmers, crop production was reduced over the drought years, which adversely affected both income generation and, particularly for subsistence farmers, their domestic food supply. In some areas, the water situation became so bad that families and communities were forced to move to new water sources.

In late May 2000, a Federation assessment team (DREF funded) conducted a vulnerability assessment in the areas. The DREF funds also covered the procurement of food items used during an earlier distribution to the worst affected districts. Based on the findings of the May 2000 assessment, a Federation appeal was launched on 6 July 2000, seeking CHF 5,603,930 to support 80,000 beneficiaries during six months in India and Pakistan and to monitor the situation of 3.5 million people in both countries as well as in Afghanistan.

A slow response to the 6 July appeal hampered the launch of the operation to assist the drought affected population. However substantial contributions during late 2000 provided the necessary impetus for the operation to proceed.

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