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Sri Lanka: Food Security Crisis - Apr 2022

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Sri Lanka
Types de catastrophes

The significant reduction in agricultural production in Sri Lanka, compounded by the rising prices of fuel and basic food items, have made food unaffordable for a segment of the population, and the government has forecasted food shortages during the next months. It is estimated that only 24 per cent of the usually worked land has been cultivated for the upcoming season. Surveys indicate that up to 70 per cent of households have had to reduce food consumption as food prices have reportedly increased by 73 per cent in the last two years.

Hospitals in the country report shortages of essential medicines and other health items, while frequent power outages affect the delivery of health services. The shortage of medicines has paralyzed about 50 per cent of medical operations in the country. The multi-dimensional crisis in Sri Lanka has inevitably brought more protection issues to the pre-existing chronic inequalities experienced by its people. An estimated 5.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in 25 districts across the country. (OCHA, 9 Jun 2022)

The United Nations has launched a US$47.2 million plan for the period June through September, to respond to the Government’s request for support. The Government announced a two-week shutdown of government services and schools in Colombo to reduce the number of people taking private and public transportation as fuel stocks are predicted to run out in five days. In health, currently close to 200 essential medicines are now out of stock, with a predicted shortage of another 163 critical over the next two to three months. Additionally, over 2,700 essential surgical and more than 250 regular laboratory items are also out of stock. Due to power cuts and the lack of fuel to operate generators, many hospitals have had to postpone non-urgent surgeries and procedures. WFP has activated an emergency response to the food crisis, focusing on urgent programmes to save lives and mitigate growing food insecurity among 3 million of the most vulnerable people of Sri Lanka from June through December 2022. (WFP, 22 Jun 2022)

The population continues to feel the brunt of the economic and food crises. About 3 in 10 households (6.26 million people) are food insecure, 65,600 of which are severely food insecure, according to WFP’s latest food security assessment. Food inflation is alarmingly high at 57.4 percent in June 2022. Steeply increasing food prices have crippled the population’s ability to put sufficient and nutritious food on the table. The majority of assessed households (61 percent) are regularly employing food-based coping strategies such as eating less preferred and less nutritious food, and reducing the amount of food they eat. Two in five households are not consuming adequate diets. (WFP, 6 Jul 2022)

Household food security and the nutrition situation in Sri Lanka is set to deteriorate as the economic crisis ensues, according to WFP and FAO’s recent Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM). Nationally, 6.3 million people were found to be food insecure (28.3 percent). Of these, at least 65,600 people are severely food insecure. Skyrocketing food costs are making it harder for the population to meet their food needs. Incomes in the last three months have plummeted. About two in five households reported that their income has been cut in half. To cope with the lack of food, 5 million people are using crisis or emergency livelihood coping strategies that are likely to impact their medium to long-term capacity for income-generating activities and food security. (OCHA, 19 Jul 2022)

The economic crisis in Sri Lanka is tipping into one of the country’s worst humanitarian crises in decades, with 6.7 million people now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Millions of families are facing shortages of food, fuel, cooking gas, essential supplies, and medicines as the humanitarian impacts of the economic crisis continue to multiply. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) holds particularly grave concerns for 2.4 million people already living below the poverty line who are among the most affected by the loss of livelihoods, food shortages and spiralling cost of essential items. (IFRC, 21 Jul 2022)

The Humanitarian Country Team continues to support the Government response to the ongoing economic crisis. The country is facing the worst economic crisis since independence, with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrinking 8.4 percent in the April-June period compared with the same period last year. As of 15 September, over 1 million people in need across all 25 districts have been reached with humanitarian assistance. Through the provision of essential medicines and supplies to health facilities, over 660,000 people were able to benefit from improved access to healthcare. Partners were also able to disburse over US$ 2.2 million of cash assistance and reach over 102,000 people with in-kind food assistance. Other life-saving initiatives are being rolled out across the sectors of food security, agriculture, nutrition, water, protection, education, and health to address urgent needs. (OCHA, 20 Sep 2022)

Sri Lanka continues to face a multidimensional crisis compounded by food insecurity, threatened livelihoods, shortages of vital and essential medicines, as well as rising protection concerns. The economic crisis is the worst since Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948 and is having humanitarian consequences for the most vulnerable people in the country. A 40 percent reduction in agricultural outputs in the 2021/2022 Maha and 50 percent reduction during the 2022 Yala seasons have further exacerbated the situation. Forecasts for the 2022/2023 Maha season indicate a significantly reduced harvest as well, which coupled with a food inflation of 85.6 percent in October, means that a significant part of the population is finding it difficult to meet basic needs. [...] Recognizing the continuing humanitarian needs, it was agreed that the Humanitarian Needs and Priorities (HNP) plan will be extended until the end of 2022, complementing existing emergency operations carried out by the UN and humanitarian partners. Focusing on life-saving priorities for the most vulnerable people, the HNP revision will increase the number of people being targeted to 3.4 million across all sectors. (OCHA, 7 Nov 2022)