Statement By WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran On Floods In Sri Lanka

Published on 09 February 2011

For the second time in less than a month, battering monsoon rains have forced tens of thousands of Sri Lankans to flee their homes across vast swathes of the country, and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is now delivering life-saving food supplies to 500,000 people.

The January floods had already caused severe damage to the upcoming harvest of rice – Sri Lanka’s staple. Rice millers and processors have also suffered damage to their plants and equipment.

In a global climate of food price volatility, such disruptions in the production of staple commodities in developing countries ring alarm bells. We all know that any price hikes have a greater impact on the world’s poorest people, because they spend up to 80 percent of their daily income on food.

So far, rice prices on global markets have not soared to the worrying levels that wheat and maize have done in recent months.

But the Sri Lankan floods remind us just how quickly erratic weather events can undermine the efforts of families, communities and countries to create food security.

WFP is planning longer term assistance to cover serious gaps in household food supplies in the weeks and months ahead, to ensure that this weather shock can be overcome and flood victims can rebuild their lives.