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 26-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.
A joint WFP, UNICEF, and Government nutrition and food security survey conducted in early 2009 states that 20 percent of Sri Lankan households are food insecure. Malnutrition levels stand at 22 percent of the under 5 population, underweight, 19 percent stunted, and 12 percent wasted. Major regional disparities were also recorded. For example 40 percent of children under 5 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 returen 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.