22 per cent of Sri Lankans need food aid: UN official

Colombo [Sri Lanka], June 10 (ANI): A total of 22 per cent of the Sri Lankan population or 4.9 million people live in need of food assistance at the moment, a high-level UN official said on Friday.

UN Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer-Hamdy said several factors are interacting to put pressure on the current food security situation in Sri Lanka.

“We have also seen that low-income households are the hardest hit and adopting negative coping strategies,” Singer-Hamdy said in an interview with Daily Mirror newspaper.

As many as 40 to 50 per cent reduction in paddy crop harvest from the 2021/2022 Maha season due to a lack of chemical fertiliser, she said.

“Since the initial decision to ban the importation of chemical fertiliser in April 2021, expenditure on fertiliser imports has fallen by nearly 60 per cent compared to the period before the ban,” the UN Resident Coordinator added.

Sri Lanka, formerly an upper-middle income country, is facing its worst economic crisis since independence. In May, food inflation stood at 57.4 per cent, while shortages of key food items, as well as fuel for cooking, transport, and industry, remain widespread, with ongoing daily power outages.

The economy is bracing for a sharp contraction due to the unavailability of basic inputs to production, an 80 per cent depreciation of the currency (since March 2022), coupled with a lack of foreign reserves and the country’s failure to meet its international debt obligations.

The economic crisis has particularly impacted food security, agriculture, livelihoods, and access to health services. Food production in the last harvest season was 40 – 50 per cent lower than last year, and the current agricultural season is at risk, with seeds, fertilizers, fuel and credit shortages.

Nearly 5 million people (22 per cent of the population) are currently in need of food assistance. Latest surveys reveal that 86 per cent of households are using at least one coping mechanism such as reducing food intake, including skipping meals.

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 no choice but to postpone routine and non-urgent surgeries and procedures. (ANI)


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