Food Insecurity in Sri LankaThe World Food Programme (WFP) recently announced it will award a $20 million grant over the next two years to fight food insecurity in Sri Lanka.

Health officials say the grant will primarily be used to improve childhood nutrition in rural communities, where an estimated 21 percent of children under the age of five are moderately or severely underweight. More than 17 percent of children in Sri Lanka are also victims of stunting

“Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of children’s lives can have irreversible consequences…so, we must do what we can, as fast as we can, to give the most disadvantaged mothers and children dependable, quality nutrition,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said.

Vulnerability to malnutrition affects many Sri Lankans who have been displaced by 30 years of internal conflict. The problem occasionally escalates when seasonal tsunamis and droughts pass over the island nation.

In partnership with Sri Lanka’s Ministries of Health and Education, WFP currently reaches children in school and at home.

WFP’s Schools Meals Program provides rice, dhal and vegetables to 160,000 students in 958 schools across the Northern Province. For many of the students served by the program, these school lunches are their only nutritional daily meal – a safety net, which has increased school enrollment and attendance.

Through regional health clinics, WFP distributes a nutritional supplement called Super Cereal Plus to 4,300 new and expectant mothers and over 10,000 children under the age of five. The supplement is a blend of corn, soy, vitamins and minerals and provides a guard against acute malnutrition.

The $20 million grant from WFP will help maintain funding levels for these programs as well as expand them to more provinces and more rural communities. The WFP said it hopes every child in Sri Lanka will receive reliable nutrition.

WFP also partners with the Ministry of Environment to strengthen agricultural resilience to climate shocks like drought and flooding. Their programs have reached 14,000 farmers. The organization hopes by empowering farming communities to be efficient and sustainable, they may be able to mitigate the effects of future climate shock, and thereby food insecurity in Sri Lanka.

Ron Minard

Sources: News.lk, Scaling Up Nutrition, UNICEF, WFP, WHO
Photo: IPS