Sri Lanka Government Prioritises Achieving Zero Hunger And Zero Undernutrition

Published on 14 February 2017

WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin with lead convenor of the review Chandrika Bandaranaike at the launch, with WFP Country Representative Brenda Barton (left) and SAPRI Director Geetha de Silva. Photo: WFP Archive

COLOMBO  –  Concluding a three-day mission to Sri Lanka, the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, joined government, civil society, the private sector, academia and the UN community in the launch of the National Strategic Review on Food Security and Nutrition – Towards Zero Hunger. Cousin praised the efforts of the Government to place food and nutrition security at the core of the country’s development agenda. 

“This Strategic Review offers concrete short and long term recommendations for achieving zero hunger.  The Sri Lankan Government has embraced the recommendations for addressing the food security and nutrition challenges created by recurrent droughts and floods,” said Cousin. 

“Every Government official with whom I met welcomed the offer of assistance from WFP for meeting the needs of those affected by the most recent drought while also acknowledging the assistance and value of the Strategic Review in fulfilling the country’s potential to feed its own people.  The Sri Lankan leaders I met are clearly committed to developing sustainable food systems,” said Cousin, after her meeting yesterday with President Maithripala Sirisena. 

WFP and the Government are planning to expand existing cash and food for work programmes to support farmers and rural communities who risk falling deeper into food insecurity because of the current drought, which means the upcoming Maha harvest could be the worst main agricultural harvest in decades.

Latest estimates indicate that already around one million people across the country have been affected by the drought in the form of lost crops or income and restricted access to water. The Government currently estimates that some 480,000 food-insecure people will need assistance to prevent them spiralling deeper into debt, hunger and hardship.

Cousin attended the launch on Monday of Sri Lanka’s National Strategic Review on Food Security and Nutrition, the blueprint for the country’s ongoing efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2; end hunger, achieve improved food security and nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.  The exceptional research effort was led by former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, chairperson of the South Asia Policy and Research Institute, and involved consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.   

“This strategic review provides a framework for the partnerships across sectors that are vital to translate global aims into local actions. The Government has shown strong leadership in the review process  but addressing the ambitious recommendations in the report will also require partnerships with private sector, civil society, academia, NGOs and the UN.   

“WFP is also changing the way it works, and through its five-year Country Strategic Plan will seek to ensure its activities are closely aligned with the priorities set by the Government,” added Cousin

In her meetings with the president and cabinet ministers, Cousin discussed how WFP could support Sri Lanka’s efforts to create more robust, resilient food systems, to overcome climate-induced shocks that are increasingly frequent.

Cousin also traveled to Monaragala, one of the country’s poorest districts, to view WFP’s work to boost the resilience of vulnerable communities. She visited cash for work programmes involving organic home and community gardens and elephant fencing, designed to prevent the loss of lives homes and farms due to elephant-human conflict, which is likely to be exacerbated by the current drought. 

Full report available here

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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.

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