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Hunger in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has experienced notable progress in several developmental areas. The country has achieved improvements to primary education, a reduction in childbirth rate and decreasing poverty levels. However, food insecurity remains a consistent problem. Hunger in Sri Lanka is a major obstacle to the nation’s socio-economic development. According to the
2019 Global Hunger Index, Sri Lanka scores 17.1, ranking 66 among 117 qualifying countries.

The Numbers

According to a UN report, more than 800 million people worldwide were estimated to be chronically undernourished as of 2017. Over 90 million children under five are underweight. Sri Lanka ranked poorly on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) and global food security index, two major indicators of food security in any country. Food and Agriculture Organization report from 2014 to 2016 found an average calorie deficit in Sri Lanka of 192 kcal per capita per day. In South Asia, only Afghanistan (36.6%) and Pakistan (30.5%) had higher rates of food inadequacy.

A study by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) revealed that more than 13% of minors in Sri Lanka were malnourished between the period of 2006-2010. The survey found that 23% of children between six and 59 months of age were stunted, 18% wasted and 29% underweight.

AHRC also found that remote and underdeveloped areas suffer more from hunger than larger cities. Although Sri Lanka has moderate percentages of food accessibility (54.5%), availability (52.8%), quality and safety (49.5 %), it is still struggling to achieve the United Nation’s goal for zero hunger by 2030.

Causes of Persistent Hunger

A food-insecure family lacks access to an optimum quantity of affordable and nutritious food. The immediate and obvious impact of food insecurity can be observed in physical health. Children struggle to concentrate in school and adults find it hard to perform well in their job. The household hunger scale (HHS) measures food insecurity in Sri Lanka on the basis of three factors: lacking access to food, sleeping hungry because of not having enough to eat and household members spending the whole day and night without eating anything.

There are several drivers behind hunger in Sri Lanka. Stagnant growth in crops in recent years has created a shortage of essential food. As the population continues to grow, this problem worsens. Furthermore, 35% of crops end up being wasted, never reaching hungry people. Rising food prices are also a concern in Sri Lanka. Changes in import duties and non-tariff barriers have caused increases in food prices as well.

Unemployment is also a major factor behind food insecurity and hunger in Sri Lanka. Many families have one or more members unemployed. One report shows that around 30% of the households depend on casual wage labor for their livelihood and food security. Around 90% percent of households in the city of Jaffna and 75% in the Vavuniya District were unemployed around 2012.

Initiatives to Address Hunger

Agriculture is one of the key ways to combat hunger and malnutrition. Different policies are intended to help fulfill Sri Lanka’s food requirement, including the National Climate Change Policy and the National Adaptation Plan for Climate Change Impact. A climate-smart agriculture system is working on increasing climate-resilient crops, rainwater harvesting, crop diversification and use of technology.

Under the National Nutrition Policy, every Sri Lankan citizen has the right to access adequate and appropriate food — irrespective of geographical location or socio-economic status. In addition to these efforts, global agencies like the World Food Program are working to combat hunger in Sri Lanka. UNICEF is also working to improve child and maternal nutrition.

Additional Ways to Combat Hunger

Socially vulnerable groups — like the elderly or female-headed families — are more prone to food insecurity. Sri Lanka’s government and other organizations should supply food vouchers to these vulnerable groups.

Because livestock production in Sri Lanka offers vast opportunity, the government should also encourage training and veterinary services to promote livestock production. In addition to this, privatizing the fish industry could help generate employment.

 

Moving forward, the government and other humanitarian organizations need to make reducing hunger in Sri Lanka a priority. Policies like the ones listed above are crucial for reaching the U.N.’s goal of zero hunger.

– Anuja Kumari
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is working hard to reduce poverty with its partners such as the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank. The country has faced a number of development barriers, such as a three-decade civil war, which ended in 2009, and a devastating tsunami in 2004. While sustainable development is ongoing in the country, poverty in Sri Lanka is still a significant issue. Here are the most pressing facts about poverty in Sri Lanka.

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Sri Lanka

  1. Poverty occurs in concentrated pockets in Sri Lanka. For example, former conflict districts such as Mullaitivu and Mannar have 28.8 and 20.1 percent of their citizens living in extreme poverty respectively. Extreme poverty rates are also high in the Batticaloa district (19.4 percent) and in the Monaragala district (20.8 percent).
  2. While certain areas have very high rates of extreme poverty, most poverty in Sri Lanka occurs in affluent districts such as Kurunegala. The Kurunegala district houses 7.7 percent of the country’s poorest citizens as opposed to the combined 3.4 percent in Mullaitivu and Mannar.
  3. About 85 percent of Sri Lanka’s poor live in rural districts, which often lack quality access to education. Rural pre-schools, for example, are often private and for-profit and oftentimes inaccessible or unavailable to poor families. Even if a family can afford pre-school for their children, the schools are little more than playgroups and do not provide an adequate education.
  4. Lack of quality education leads to rampant unemployment, as seen in many rural areas across Sri Lanka. Reportedly 27.7 percent of Sri Lanka’s youth, ages 15 to 24, are not receiving an education, training for future employment or are currently employed.
  5. Nearly 45 percent of Sri Lankans live on less than $5 a day. This means that living standards in certain areas of the country are very low.
  6. There are high rates of undernourishment, stunting and malnourishment in Sri Lanka, especially in children. An overall 22.1 percent of Sri Lanka’s population is undernourished, meaning they do not have enough to eat. In fact, 17.1 percent of Sri Lankan children under the age of five are malnourished and lack access to balanced diets; 17.3 percent of children under five have stunted growth, meaning they are too short for their ages.
  7. About 4.4 percent of Sri Lankans still lack access to electricity. Lack of electricity means that this population also lacks the benefit of refrigerators, washing machines and any other type of technology. Without technology or internet access, this population does not have access to opportunities that could help lift them out of poverty.
  8. Women, rural women especially, are not very economically active. Gender roles in Sri Lanka dictate that women do the bulk of unpaid care work in their households. Women are often responsible for rearing and educating their children, caring for elderly or sick family members, cooking and collecting daily water. Many women do not have time to earn money of their own and become financially independent.
  9. Sri Lanka’s growth rate reached a 16-year low in 2017 at 3.1 percent. Such an occurrence means that the nation’s rate of economic growth is in decline.
  10. Despite environmental disasters and other factors, poverty in Sri Lanka is actually declining. From 2006 to 2016, the rate of extreme poverty declined from 15.3 percent to 4.1 percent, which is among the lowest rates of poverty in the region.

Looking Forward

According to the World Bank, Sri Lanka’s economic outlook remains favorable despite recent declines. The organization reports, “Growth should continue to translate into poverty reduction and improvement in living standards.”

The country still has a long road ahead recovering from civil war and facing ongoing environmental crises, but the declining trend in poverty is a good sign for Sri Lanka’s future.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Unsplash

 Sri Lanka
Compared to other states in its region, Sri Lanka is doing well economically as a middle-income country. It is lagging, however, in certain aspects that include hunger and chronic malnutrition. The following are the top 10 facts about hunger in Sri Lanka.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Sri Lanka

  1. Despite reducing maternal mortality rates and cutting poverty in half, Sri Lanka is still struggling with food insecurity. Undernutrition of its population remains a prevalent issue in Sri Lanka. While the country has been making big strides, food insecurity has the ability to get in the way of socio-economic development.
  2. Sri Lanka’s levels of chronic malnutrition, or stunting, is the lowest in the region at 13 percent. Compared to its peers (India has an alarming rate of 38 percent), this rate is not high. Stunting prevents proper brain and body development in children, leading to a less prosperous and healthy population.
  3. However, Sri Lanka has one of the highest rates of acute malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies in the world. Just behind Djibouti and South Sudan, Sri Lanka ranks third with rates between 14 and 35 percent throughout the country’s districts, which is particularly concerning for the health of Sri Lanka’s population.
  4. Sri Lanka has a 19.6 percent prevalence of wasting. Wasting refers to a low body weight compared to height ratio, illustrating the considerable effect of undernutrition.
  5. Sri Lanka’s island status makes it vulnerable to unpredictable weather patterns. Since 2016, Sri Lanka has been suffering from a severe drought that is still affecting 1.2 million people across the country. This significantly contributes to food insecurity because it wipes out large amounts of crops and agricultural food sources.
  6. The government of Sri Lanka estimates that 480,000 food insecure people will need humanitarian aid because of the effects of the 2016 drought. This aid is necessary to prevent the hunger problem from getting worse.
  7. As of 2017, the Sri Lankan government announced its plan to prioritize ending hunger and malnutrition. Working with the World Food Programme, the government is focusing on achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2. This goal includes improving food security, ending hunger and advancing sustainable agriculture by 2030.
  8. Rice production has dropped severely since the drought hit Sri Lanka. A rice harvest in 2017 yielded 63 percent below normal. The population depends greatly on rice for sustenance and survival, and it is the main item affected by the drought.
  9. Among developing countries, Sri Lanka ranked 87th on the Global Hunger Index. This list was calculated by taking into account rates of stunting and wasting in children under 5, amount of population undernourished, and infant mortality rates. From “Low” to “Extremely Alarming,” this gave the country a status of “Serious” in 2016.
  10. The government of Sri Lanka and the World Food Programme have been working together for 50 years. The WFP focuses on supporting the population to gain access to a more steady supply of food. They address not only emergency situations like the 2016 drought but also long-term solutions to hunger.

Although Sri Lanka is improving in many ways, the country has a long way to come in regards to food insecurity. These top 10 facts about hunger in Sri Lanka provide clear insight into the humanitarian efforts that need to be made to mitigate this issue.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr