About 3.9 million Lankans are food insecure: UNICEF

About 3.9 million Lankans are food insecure: UNICEF

Source –  sundaytimes

Some 3.9 million Sri Lankans are moderately food insecure with more than 10,000 households facing severe food insecurity, according to the latest situation report issued by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The report says that about 2.9 million children need humanitarian assistance to access lifesaving nutrition, health, education, water and sanitation, protection, and social protection services. The UNICEF report “Sri Lanka Humanitarian Situation Report No.01 (Economic Crisis)” covers the period from January 1 to June 30 this year. It notes that about 3.9 million people were classified as moderately food insecure as of May. Estate sector communities are found to be suffering from the highest level of acute food insecurity, followed by households highly dependent on social protection schemes such as Samurdhi or disability benefits.

Despite the apparent economic stability and improved food security in the country, a significantly high 62 percent of households are adopting livelihood-based coping strategies such as withdrawing savings, borrowing money, and buying food on credit to access food compared to 48 percent in May last year, the report says.

It highlights that 26 percent of households are employing emergency or crisis-level livelihood coping strategies, which include “selling productive assets (e.g., farming equipment), reducing essential health/education expenses, withdrawing children completely from school, and selling land.”

According to the report, in April 2023, the percentage of underweight children under five was 15.8 percent, compared to 13.1 percent in April last year.

More families are resorting to negative coping mechanisms to prioritise food consumption over expenses for education, health, and protection, UNICEF states.

“Parents are facing challenges in prioritising income at the household level for education. As a result, partner reports indicate irregular school attendance, which could lead to school-drop out eventually, is increasing among students, along with increasing mental health issues related to education among children.”

The report notes that drought conditions may negatively affect the upcoming “Yala” agriculture season and already 45,000 acres of paddy fields in the Hambantota district are at high risk of being destroyed due to severe drought.

“With the worsening drought conditions affecting the yala harvest, rice wholesale and retail prices are expected to increase, exacerbating the existing food insecurities in the country. In addition, many forest fires had been reported across the country due to the prevailing dry weather conditions, including in the water catchment-protected areas,” the report states.

UNICEF reached more than 647,900 people, including 360,941 children with, humanitarian assistance in the first half of this year. The agency’s humanitarian cash transfers reached 70,571 households ensuring nutrition food access to mothers with young children in the most vulnerable districts.

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