Several suicides have been directly attributed to the effects of the drought in Sri Lanka, the Asia Pacific Daily (APD) news quoted the United Nations (UN) office in Sri Lanka as saying.
Since late 2016, Sri Lanka has been experiencing a lack of rainfall which has developed into what is believed to be the worst drought in 40 years, with significant impacts on the economic activity, livelihoods and lives of communities.
As of Tuesday, a total of 1,927,069 people were estimated to be affected by the drought across 17 districts, according to the Disaster Management Centre in Sri Lanka.
Despite the Southwest monsoon in late May, which triggered flooding and landslides in the country’s southwest provinces, country-wide drought conditions are ongoing with the total affected population reaching over two million people in early September.
However, the figures reported by the Disaster Management Centre have reduced due to brief inter-monsoonal rains experienced in mid-September across various districts. The UN however says these rains are unlikely to significantly alleviate the ongoing drought conditions which are predicted to continue in the coming weeks.
In March 2017, one-quarter of households were seriously concerned about access to drinking water with levels of water available for general household use declining. According to assessments in August by the World Food Programme (WFP) and Ministry of Disaster Management, 45% of communities have reported that their closest reservoirs are now empty, with overall water levels in reservoirs at 18% in the beginning of August compared to 47% this time last year.
According to the Department of Agriculture, due to the floods in May and ongoing drought impacting the primary and secondary harvests of 2017, the rice production for 2017 is expected to be the lowest paddy production in the last 10 years. The production forecast for 2017 will be sufficient for just over 7 months of household consumption. As a result, over 300,000 households are estimated to be food insecure with many households limiting their food intake and 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. 50% of households surveyed in a recent World Food Programme assessment reported that their debts have almost doubled compared to 2016 due to a lack of agriculture based income.
The UN says 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)