Over 300,000 households in Sri Lanka facing food insecurity

The United Nations (UN) says over 300,000 households in Sri Lanka are estimated to be food insecure as a result of the drought.

Available water sources are also at alarmingly low levels with reservoirs country-wide 18.5 per cent full, compared to 51 per cent at the same time in 2016.

The UN says bilateral assistance has been received or pledged by China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Republic of Korea, including provision of water bowsers, rice and cash assistance. Development partners have also committed to implementing longer-term projects, including those aimed at building sustainable knowledge or practices in the agriculture and water management sectors, as part of disaster risk reduction actions.

UNICEF today handed over four water bowsers to President Maithripala Sirisena in support of the Government of Sri Lanka’s ongoing response to the country’s worst drought in 40 years.

“Drought doesn’t only endanger lives by limiting the availability of safe water, it has multiple knock-on effects such as destroying crops, increasing farmer indebtedness and driving food insecurity” said UNICEF Representative Tim Sutton. “Most importantly, these drastically impact the lives of children, especially the most vulnerable. That’s why it’s so vital for UNICEF to immediately provide essential supplies, as well as investing in long term resilience that enables children and communities to prepare and respond in the event of future water emergencies” he said.

Across the country, 20 out of 25 districts have been affected with significant impacts on the economic activity, livelihoods and lives of communities. Despite the recent onset of the Southwest monsoon in late May, which triggered flooding and landslides in the country’s southwest provinces, country-wide drought conditions are ongoing.

As of 29 August (1200hrs, UTC+5.30), 1.8 million people were estimated to be affected by the drought across 20 districts, according to the Disaster Management Centre.

With the drought impacting the primary and secondary harvests of 2017, the total amount of rice cultivated this year is less than half of that produced in 2016. Other crops have also been adversely affected. As a result, many households have had to limit their food intake, in some cases eating just one meal a day. The inability of farmers to cultivate their land has also caused the availability of agricultural work to decline and consequently in many drought-affected communities, indebtedness is rising. This is having serious consequences for the health and wellbeing of communities, with several suicides being directly attributed to the effects of the drought. (Colombo Gazette)

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