ECONOMYNEXT – The World Food Programme (WFP) has commenced a programme to provide emergency food, nutrition, and school meals until December for three million people in cash-strapped Sri Lanka, a WFP report said.

The latest situation report said about three in 10 households – which comes to 6.26 million people – are food insecure, out of which 65,600 are severely food insecure, following shortages and skyrocketing food inflation.

“WFP is responding to the ongoing crisis, starting in the capital city of Colombo. It plans to support 3 million vulnerable people of Sri Lanka from June through December 2022.”

The programme prioritises “families who are unable to purchase increasingly expensive food, particularly those with children under five, pregnant and lactating women, and persons with disabilities.”

The support extended will be delivered through in-kind food, cash-based transfers, school meals, and nutritional support.

The report further said inflation of food prices in Sri Lanka for June was 57.4%, the highest rate since 1954.

As prices shoot up, due to Sri Lanka’s fuel crisis and fertilizer crisis leaving aisles and racks barren in groceries, households have deviated to employing food-based coping strategies such as eating less preferred and less nutritious food, and reducing food intake, the report said.

“The WFP anticipates that even more people will turn to these coping strategies as the crisis deepens.”

The WFP has reached to about 2,100 pregnant women, 88 percent of its initially targeted 2,375 beneficiaries in Colombo.

“The pregnant women receive three vouchers with a combined value of 15,000 rupees (approximately 40 US dollars and roughly half the cost of a nutritious diet for a family of four for a month) to supplement the family’s ability to purchase nutritious food and other necessities.”

The organisation is also working hand in hand with the government and has agreed to support one million schoolchildren aged between five to 10 with school meals starting from October 2022. This measure has been implemented towards vulnerable schools, where the Government’s national school meals programme has been halted due to budget constraints.

“WFP has purchased iron-fortified rice, pulses, oil and commodities. These are expected to arrive in August,” the statement outlined.

The WFP is in need of a funding requirement of 63 million dollars for the next five months starting July till December 2022. Thus far, the organisation has received 18.14 million dollars from the governments of Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, which represents 28 percent of its emergency appeal for 63 million dollars. (Colombo/Jul07/2022)