Food and nutrition security crisis in Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka

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OVERVIEW

Sri Lanka is in the grip of the worst economic crisis it has ever known since its independence in 1948. The country is no longer able to pay import bills for food, fuel, gas and other essential goods necessary for everyday life. citizens, and repaying the huge foreign debts is a distant dream.

Prices for most food items have been rising steadily since the last quarter of 2021 and hit a record high in August 2022, with a year-on-year food inflation rate of nearly 94%, further limiting the power of household purchase.

FOOD INSECURITY AND THE HUNGER CRISIS

According to the World Food Programme, 6.3 million people, more than 30% of the Sri Lankan population, are “food insecure” and in need of humanitarian aid. Of these, about 5.3 million people are reducing or skipping meals, and at least 65,600 people are severely food insecure. This situation is likely to worsen as the crisis unfolds in the island nation due to higher inflation, loss of livelihoods, low purchasing power and severe shortage. essential items such as food, medicine, cooking gas and fuel.

Without external assistance, the food security situation is expected to deteriorate further, especially during the lean season from October 2022 to February 2023, due to a poor harvest of staple foods such as rice and the economic crisis. current.

Prices of staple foods like rice and vegetables have doubled. Cooking gas is both expensive and in short supply, making it difficult for many to keep cooking fires burning. WFP said soaring food prices were making it harder for people to meet their food needs. About 6.7 million people do not consume adequate food and 5.3 million people reduce the number of meals eaten during the day, while more than 60% of families eat less, cheaper and less nutritious food. The situation has further worsened as the government cut nutrition programs such as school meals and fortified foods for malnourished mothers and children due to severe financial constraints.

According to FAO, the agricultural sector, which employs 30% of Sri Lankans, requires interventions to improve production capacity to build resilience in the agricultural sector, reduce import requirements amid shortages of foreign exchange reserves and avoid increasing hunger.

In addition, incomes have plummeted over the past three months and about two in five households said their incomes had been cut in half. To cope with the lack of food, 5 million people use survival strategies in crisis or emergency situations that may affect their medium and long-term capacity to carry out income-generating activities and ensure their food security.

According to the WFP, 70% of Sri Lankan children were stunted even before the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis hit. This means that their height was below their age and about 15% were wasted, and 17% of children under 5 were stunted, meaning they were too thin for their height. With this crisis, the nutritional situation is expected to deteriorate further in the coming days.

The UN estimates that half of Sri Lankan children already need emergency aid. According to a study by Save the Children in June 2022, 59% of families said they could not fully meet all their food needs. Additionally, two out of three respondents indicated that their household had to rely on less preferred or less expensive foods at least once a week prior to the survey. The report stated: “More than half of all children were required to eat fewer favorite foods and children were required to reduce the amount of food they eat. About one in ten children had reduced their food consumption frequency (twice or less).”

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