Sri Lanka graduated to lower middle-income country status in 2010 thanks to the adoption of effective development policies. However, the country continues to struggle with the effects of a 27-year civil conflict that resulted in significant economic and social damage. Improvements in human development, and the nutritional status of children, women and adolescents have remained stagnant.
The increased frequency of natural disasters such as drought and flash floods further compounds food and nutrition insecurity. Nearly one person in four is undernourished, and underweight and anaemia affect almost a quarter of children and women.
As per WFP’s most recent Cost of Diet Analysis, 33 percent of the population cannot afford the minimum cost of a nutritious diet.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been present in Sri Lanka since 1968, providing both emergency assistance in response to natural and human-made disasters (i.e. tsunami, droughts, floods and civil war), and in developmental programmes such as school meals and nutrition interventions.
WFP supports the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 on end hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Sri Lanka
To treat moderate acute malnutrition, WFP distributes specialized fortified nutritious foods to pregnant and nursing women, and to children aged between 6 months and 5 years. WFP also provides technical support to the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine to enhance the impact of Thriposha, a nutritious, locally fortified blended food. WFP also promotes behavioral changes through enhanced nutrition education and information on safe and nutrient foods, dietary diversity, nutrient deficiencies and their root causes.
WFP provides daily nutritious meals to 160,000 primary and secondary students in 958 schools in the conflict-affected Northern Province of the country. WFP distributes rice, dhal and vegetable oil to schools where volunteer cooks prepare the meals. The Ministry of Education supplements the programme by providing vegetables bought from local farmers. The programme has resulted in a stark improvement in school attendance.
WFP supports activities like land reclamation, the construction/re-construction and upgrading of feeder roads, the use of water catchment technology, the rehabilitation and maintenance of tanks and reservoirs and the creation of shields against storm surges. These initiatives, coupled with trainings on alternative livelihood options, contribute to resilience and food security, reducing disaster risks and supporting climate change adaption measures.
Disaster risk management
WFP supports the Government to improve its disaster risk reduction and response through capacity development. In the area of disaster risk reduction, WFP works closely with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Climate change adaptation
WFP in Sri Lanka works with the Ministry of Environment to help more than 14,000 farming families prepare in advance to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. The programme focuses on helping vulnerable communities develop adaptation techniques that will preserve food security in the event of flooding or droughts, which are expected to increase in frequency and intensity in coming years.
In response to the tropical cyclone that hit Sri Lanka in May 2016, causing widespread flooding and landslides which destroyed homes and submerged entire villages, WFP provided 10,000 families with a cash transfer calculated to allow an average four-person household to meet the daily energy requirement of 2,100 kcal per person.