More than six million people, more than 28% of Sri Lanka’s population, are “food insecure” and this situation is likely to deteriorate as the crisis unfolds in the island nation which is struggling with its worst economic crisis, says the World Food Programme.
Sri Lanka is currently reeling from a severe foreign exchange crisis with declining reserves and the government unable to pay the bill for essential imports.
The economic crisis has led to severe shortages of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas, fuel and toilet paper, with Sri Lankans forced to queue for hours outside shops to buy fuel and cooking gas.
WFP said in a situation report on Friday that 6.3 million people (28.3%) in the country are food insecure and that this situation is likely to deteriorate as the crisis unfolds.
Of these, at least 65,600 people are in a situation of severe food insecurity. The WFP has warned that these numbers could rise significantly without immediate intervention, the report adds.
WFP said soaring food prices were making it harder for people to meet their food needs. About 6.7 million people do not have an adequate diet and 5.3 million people reduce the number of meals consumed.
The agency is immediately scaling up operations to reach 3.4 million people in 2022. The WFP said it urgently needs $63 million to carry out its lifesaving assistance.
According to the recent WFP and FAO Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM), the household food security and nutrition situation is expected to deteriorate as the crisis ensues.
In addition, incomes for the past three months have plummeted 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.
Food inflation reached a staggering 80% in June 2022. Coupled with disruptions to livelihoods, this further limits household purchasing power.
The update indicates that the next Maha season is likely to see a 50% reduction in paddy planting areas and an unlikely recovery of the fisheries and livestock sectors if farmers do not have access to seeds, fertilizer and financial aid.
If farmers do not have access to seeds, other inputs and financial assistance, the next Maha season could see a 50% reduction in paddy planting areas, an unlikely recovery in the fishing and livestock, and a further rise in food prices and dependence on food imports, he said.
WFP is scaling up its response to the crisis through unconditional food aid, as well as support to the national school meals program and the national nutrition program (Thriposha). WFP aims to reach a total of 3.4 million beneficiaries through this response by December 2022.
To date, WFP has received $20.1 million from the governments of Australia, Japan and New Zealand, as well as the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund and other multilateral donors. This represents 32% of its $63 million emergency appeal, the UN agency said.
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