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Home / News / India /  Number of undernourished people rose by 45% in seven years: FAO

New Delhi: As climate risks become more profound on agricultural activities, a report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has highlighted that the number of undernourished people in drought-sensitive countries, including India, increased by nearly 45% in the last seven years.

The report was released on the sidelines of the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Conference (UNCCD) here on Wednesday.

With the intensity and frequency of drought expected to increase in the next few years, experts highlighted that mitigation should focus on drought as a “risk" and not as a “crisis". Representatives from over 198 countries and agencies are engaged in deliberations in the conference on strategies needed to mitigate drought.

Countries are being encouraged to design and implement national drought policies on three pillars--drought monitoring and early warning system, vulnerability assessment and drought preparedness, and mitigation and response, which should essentially focus on the poor and strengthen their livelihood.

The negotiations are crucial for India, as several districts in some states, including Jharkhand and Bihar, are facing a situation akin to drought. Below average monsoon rainfall and persistent dry weather in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have hampered planting activities.

According to the FAO, most natural disaster-related costs incurred from 2005 to 2015 were due to the impact of drought, amounting to $29 billion in agricultural losses to developing countries.

As many as 330 million people were affected by drought in India during the El Nino year of 2015-16, which was associated with below normal monsoon rainfall. This period was also marked by increase in child labour and cases of trafficking in the affected states, according to the UN.

“Social protections, including cash transfers, can improve people’s resilience to drought," the report suggested. It also highlighted how prolonged drought periods saw reduced hydropower generation in several countries.

Another major concern is negative perceptions about drought-prone areas, even when there is no drought, which holds back investment. “The effects that this has on the national economic growth rates include far-reaching consequences that multiply and deepen the costs of inaction," stated the report.

“Member countries present in the COP will agree on priority actions to be taken to accelerate land restoration and drought preparedness and will hopefully provide guidance to partners like the FAO to help implement such actions," said Mansur.

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