• Last Update 2022-08-09 20:18:00

Rising prices reduce access to food for millions in Sri Lanka: WFP


Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence is spinning off a “serious food crisis,” said the World Food Programme Representative and Country Director Abdur Rahim Siddiqui. He describes a toxic mix of spiking prices, shrinking crop yields, the fallout of the war in Ukraine and a lack of state funds to pay for key supplies. 

“The economy has collapsed and the country has run out of the money needed to import essentials like fuel, food and fertilizer,” he adds, urging more donor support to WFP and other humanitarian responders.

A recent assessment by WFP and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that 6.3 million people – nearly 30 percent of the population – are food-insecure. It comes as WFP warns of an unprecedented global food crisis. 

After two consecutive harvest failures, a third would be “catastrophic,” he adds.

Sri Lanka is also feeling the aftershocks of the war in Ukraine. Along with disrupting key grain exports and driving up global food and fuel prices, the conflict has battered two of its top tourist markets – Russia and Ukraine itself – reducing the availability of hard currency and, in turn, Sri Lanka's ability to import, with far-reaching effects. 

“Around 200,000 fishermen are out of their livelihoods because this country doesn't have fuel following import restrictions,” says Siddiqui. “We need to provide support to the smallholder farmers,” he adds. “International organizations like WFP have a duty to step in to provide emergency food assistance to the most vulnerable cross-section of the population.” 

WFP kicked off its emergency response operation mid-June, distributing food vouchers to pregnant women in some of the underserved sections of the capital. 

“Through our emergency response, we aim to scale up and reach 3.4 million people with food and nutrition assistance,” says Siddiqui. “This will not only be in the form of food but also cash and vouchers, which enables people to buy food and other essentials based on their specific needs.”

WFP’s emergency response will also support resuming a key programme: providing food to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and malnourished young children – bridging a key gap created when Sri Lanka’s Government was forced to halt critical assistance programmes for lack of funds.

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