The peak body for Australian aid organisations and humanitarian agencies is calling on the Australian government to urgently boost humanitarian aid towards Sri Lanka, to help address the economic crisis and looming food security issues there.
ACFID – the Australian Council for International Development – would like to see Australia contribute $A10 million in immediate funds to Sri Lanka.
This would form a significant portion of the $US47 million target that the United Nations recently set when it appealed to international donors, to be directed towards essential medicines, safe drinking water, livelihood protection and other measures.
Said Natasha Chabbra, ACFID’s Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Advisor:
“The situation facing Sri Lankans is dire. Their economy has collapsed, fuel and medicines are running out and food is increasingly in short supply.
“The Sri Lankan people are suffering and many are looking to escape the country, seeing no other way out. Australia could help by immediately directing funds towards humanitarian agencies and particularly local organisations already operating on the ground.”
In April, Australia announced it would provide $2.5 million towards boosting food security in Sri Lanka through the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
This funding is being directed towards programs covering child nutrition, smallholder farms and rural livelihoods.
Recent analysis by the WFP has found that around 5.7 million Sri Lankans are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, and almost four in 10 people face moderate to severe hunger.
Food production has slowed and shortages are expected to worsen in coming months. More than 50 percent of farmers have stopped cultivating crops in the current season (May-August 2022) due to rapidly rising fuel and fertiliser costs.
Food prices have increased by more than 70 percent over the past two years, according to United Nations figures.
“This is the time for Australia and its Quad partners to step up and help a fellow Indo-Pacific country that is in great need,” said ACFID CEO Marc Purcell.
“It’s important for humanitarian reasons, but also geostrategic reasons – otherwise we face the prospect of China stepping into the breach,” said Purcell.
Sri Lanka is currently facing its worst economic crisis since it gained independence in 1948, with challenges in sovereign debt and public finance, leading to rising costs of and shortages of fuel and medicine.
Due to the combination of factors including Covid-19, the Ukraine conflict and drought, food security is emerging as a major factor in spots around the world in coming months. Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa have all received the most critical hunger rating.
ACFID is asking for an immediate funding commitment of $150 million from the Australian Government to address famine in these four places. Longer term, it wants to see the Government frame a wider strategy that builds resilience into food systems to help alleviate insecurities in places around the world, including Sri Lanka and Myanmar.