Sri Lanka announces anti-hunger measures after reports of rising malnutrition, fainting students


ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President’s office established a Food Security Program Unit to address increasing poverty and hunger after reports of rising malnutrition and students fainting at schools without food amid an economic crisis and sharp depreciation of rupee currency has led to basic food unaffordable many people.

Local and social media have reported many incidencea of students fainting at schools because they come without having any foods at home, increasing malnutrition, and many people having lower amount of foods without much nutritions.

Food inflation has spiked to a record 84.6% in August 2022 from 82.5% in the previous month with the prices of all the essential foods like rice, wheat flour, and related products as well as protein sources like fish, meat, eggs, and chicken have more than doubled in the last six months.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office in a statement said families with more than five members who receive the current poverty alleviation programme Samurdhi and families with disabled and people with chronic illnesses have been identified as criteria for providing assistance under the World Food Programme (WFP).

Poverty stricken families with children below five years, families without a husband or wife, families with pregnant and lactating mothers and poverty stricken families who have not even received primary education who are facing severe food insecurity will also be eligible to receive the monthly payments under WFP.

“Accordingly, it is possible to provide Rs.15,000 monthly under the World Food Program for such families through Grama Niladhari Officers and Divisional Secretaries,” the President’s Media Division said in a statement.

“This money will be provided to them for the first 03 months and a food program will be implemented for another 06 months. In addition to this, the government has taken steps to provide a monthly allowance of Rs. 10,000, to 61,000 poverty stricken families for a period of six months.”

The WFP in a Situation Report for August said 6.3 million people are food insecure and 6.7 million people are not consuming adequate diets.

WFP’s economic crisis response has aimed to reach a total of 3.4 million people across three main activities:  unconditional food assistance through cash or in-kind, school meals and nutritional support. However, these programmes have yet to be started.

Sri Lanka’s unprecedented price hike in the basic foods come after its currency has collapsed following excess money printing by the central bank, making imports including foods and fuel more expensive.

Former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s overnight ban on chemical fertilizers in April 2021 also have hit the rice production and led to supply disruptions.

Price of a loaf of bread, which was one of the most cheapest food available, has risen by more than 200% in the last four months. (Colombo/Sept22/2022)

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