Three of every 10 Sri Lankan households are unsure where their next meal will come from, the latest Food Insecurity Assessment brought out by WFP says.
Hunger stares at Sri Lankans as food shortages matched by record inflation and skyrocketing fuel costs makes 6.26 million people in the island “food insecure” – 65,600 of them “severely” so.
Record inflation, especially skyrocketing food prices, are crippling Sri Lanka as it faces the worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948.
The food crisis emerging on the heels of an economic mess threatens to undo years of development progress and severely undermines the country’s ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said the World Food Programme (WFP).
Three of every 10 Sri Lankan households are unsure where their next meal will come from, the latest ‘Food Insecurity Assessment’ report brought out by the UN’s World Food Programme says.
Hunger stares at Sri Lankans as food shortages matched by record inflation and skyrocketing fuel costs makes 6.26 million people in the island nation are bracketed by the UN body “food insecure” – 65,600 of them “severely” so.
Inflation at 57.4 per cent
The population continues to feel the brunt of the economic and food crises as food inflation went “alarmingly high” at 57.4 per cent in June 2022, the report says, adding, “Steeply increasing food prices have crippled the population’s ability to put sufficient and nutritious food on the table.”
61 per cent of the households assessed are regularly employing food-based coping strategies – they are eating less and opt for less nutritious food as that is all they can afford. Many are reducing their intake of food to be able to save for others in the household or for the coming day. “Two in five households are not consuming adequate diets,” the report says.
But that seems to be the beginning of a tragedy that, the organisation predicts, with a deepening crisis and with dwindling opportunities to earn in the medium to long-term, about 200,000 more families will turn to such coping strategies.
“These days, we don’t have a proper meal but eat only rice and gravy,” one woman told WFP surveyors.
The situation is alarming, especially for expectant mothers who are putting both, their own and their children’s health at risk.
“Pregnant mothers need to eat nutritious meals every day, but the poorest find it harder and harder to afford the basics,” WFP Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Anthea Webb told a local television, stressing that by skipping meals, pregnant women were putting themselves and their children’s health at risk in a way that “carries throughout your life”.
The food security situation is worst among people working in the farming estates sector – such as large tea plantations – where more than half of households are food insecure, according to the WFP report.
In all measures of food insecurity and coping strategies, these households have consistently poorer outcomes than urban and rural populations.
While urban households are depleting savings to cope for now, families on rural estates are already turning to credit, in order to buy food and other necessities.
“Poor families in cities and those who work on estates have seen their incomes plummet while market prices have soared,” the WFP official said.
A gloomy picture
A current oil supply shortage has forced schools and government offices to close until further notice.
Reduced domestic agricultural production, a lack of foreign exchange reserves, and local currency depreciation, have fuelled the shortages.
WFP says that the economic crisis will push families into hunger and poverty – some for the first time – adding to the half a million people who the World Bank estimates have fallen below the poverty line because of the pandemic.
Image: Josh Estey / WFP