Quick facts you should know as you plan your next wave of relief items.
Come any crisis and “dry rations” is burned into your vocabulary by newspapers, schools, relief centres, and NGOs. Flung far and wide, the term snowballs and takes on a life of its own, often encapsulating items that are not in its original definition—because no, bath packets are not dry rations even if you don’t put curry in them.
As we prepare for long-term flood relief, it’s important to keep in mind that this second wave of aid should consist of items that will help families get back on their feet and settle into their homes. Cooked food is emergency relief and the majority demand for this has died down. Dry rations are now more important than ever and consist of products that can be stored in larders and store rooms to help families through the, literal, rainy days ahead.
Here are some quick tips to keep in mind:
*As a rule of thumb, any product that has a lifespan of over 6 months and that can be stored without refrigeration is considered a dry ration.
*As logical as it may seem, dry rations should not be consumed on the daily—they should be kept in a cool, dry, easily-accessible place (in a high cupboard, away from rising water levels, for example). Remind your distribution centres of this so that information can be conveyed to families in need.
*Each family should ideally have a 3-day supply of food per family member. Use this approximation as you parcel out the next wave of relief.
*Simpler is always better and the faster the item can be consumed, the more effective it is.
*Dry crackers, powdered milk, rice, dahl, and seasoning packets are the obvious choices, but canned soups and vegetables are often easier to consume in tight conditions and provide quicker respite from hunger.
*Cereal is also an extremely effective option. Think about it: when was the last time your opened box of Coco Pops went stale? Cereal can be left alone for relatively long periods of time and still retain its crunch. This is a useful option for families with children. Corn Flakes is a great substitute for adults.
*Bottled water. Yes, we know it’s a liquid and ergo cannot technically fall under *dry* rations but remember, there is little use sending dhal packets, Nestomalt, or powdered milk if families don’t have uncontaminated water with which to use it. Always, always send water.
*Salt, sugar, and maybe pepper: Many of the rations we send often get thrown out because food without these condiments doesn’t taste as good. And Sri Lankans love salt and sugar. It is non-negotiable to move ahead without them. Jokes aside, make sure to send these in sealed or air-tight containers.
*Multivitamins/basic medication: Many affected families may have lost their supply of vitamins or basic medication. Ask around before arbitrarily sending out to make sure aid is donated properly and efficiently.
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