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What are the current issues in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, with a population of more than 20 million people, is a midde-income country struggling with the after effects of the recently ended twenty-six-year civil war between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Despite significant gains in human development indicators and poverty rates, the effects of the conflict including the disruption of the planting season and land mines in arable lands, together with the onset of the global financial crisis and the impact of sustained high food prices have eroded people's ability to cope.

The World Food Programme (WFP) along with UNICEF and the Government produced a joint nutrition and food security survey conducted in early 2009 that states that 20 percent of Sri Lankan households are food insecure. Malnutrition levels stand at 22 percent of the under-five population, underweight, 19 percent stunted, and 12 percent wasted. Major regional disparities were also recorded. For example 40 percent of children under five in the former conflict areas are underweight and 47 percent of children in the same category living on estate plantations are stunted.

In mid-May 2009, the 26-year long war in the north ended, having resulted in a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of people who had been trapped by fighting along the north-eastern coast. The rapid influx of IDPs into Vavuniya prompted the Government of Sri Lanka to request WFP as well as other agencies to support its efforts to meet the basic needs of the population. At present approximately 80,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) continue to take shelter in transit/welfare camps, primarily in Vavuniya. As part of the Government's return/resettlement plan, some 200,000 IDPs have already been returned to their homes or are living with host families. It is unclear when the remaining caseload of beneficiaries in open movement camps will be able to return to their homes. The mine clearance process is still ongoing.

Across the country, an estimated 1.2 million people are in need of food assistance and livelihood recovery support as a result of conflict and high food prices.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Sri Lanka

WFP’s activities in Sri Lanka continue to focus on meeting the food and nutrition needs of the most vulnerable especially returnees as they attempt to regain their livelihoods, thus promoting food security and peace and reconciliation. The main components of WFP interventions in Sri Lanka are:

  • Emergency Support to IDPs returning and resettled IDPS as well as those remaining in camps
  • Nutritional supplementation for pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as for children six months to five years of age;
  • School meals to address short-term hunger in primary/secondary schools;
  • Rehabilitation and Infrastructure development activities for returnees.
  • Food-for-training activities

Featured Sri Lanka publications

  • Sri Lanka: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 330 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Sri Lanka? Visit the Sri Lanka publications archive.