© WFP/Nguyenduc Hoang
Sri Lanka is a small island nation that has witnessed significant development and socioeconomic progress following the end of its 27-year civil conflict in 2009. The country’s progress is reflected in its middle-income status and achievement of most Millennium Development Goals. The Government’s rapid response to the first case of COVID-19 played a critical role in curbing the spread of the virus at its onset. Nevertheless, the country has been affected by the pandemic, with reduced tourism and remittances and a loss of employment, which may spill over into reduced food and nutrition security.
Despite significant achievements in human development, the country still faces many socioeconomic challenges, including the impact of a nutritional ‘double burden’ of undernutrition and overnutrition.
According to the Demographic and Health Survey (2016), undernutrition rates have remained unchanged for over a decade. A 15 percent rate of wasting -- low weight for height -- places Sri Lanka as one of the countries with the highest prevalence of acute malnutrition in children under 5 years of age, globally. Sri Lanka’s nutrition status is further aggravated by high levels of overweight and obesity, particularly among women of reproductive age (45 percent).
Sri Lanka is ranked 6th on the Climate Risk Index (2020), among countries most affected by extreme weather – reflecting the extent of drought, floods and landslides which compromise food security and nutrition.
Present in Sri Lanka since 1968, WFP has been working with the Government for over 50 years to address the underlying causes of food insecurity and malnutrition. WFP’s role has evolved over the years, and it now acts as an enabler and assists the Government by providing technical and policy support in building national capacity to ensure access to food, end malnutrition, improve the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers, and support vulnerable, rural communities by enhancing their resilience against natural shocks and climate risks.
Gender considerations are integrated across all aspects of WFP activities, to promote equality and strengthen food and nutrition security.
WFP uses sustainable interventions to ensure that school-aged children in food-insecure areas have access to food all year round; children under 5, adolescent girls and women of reproductive age have improved nutrition; emergency preparedness in response to climate shocks is enhanced; and vulnerable communities and smallholder farmers have strengthened livelihoods and resilience in the face of shocks and stresses throughout the year.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Sri Lanka
WFP supports the national health system in the prevention and management of moderate acute malnutrition. Projects include strengthening national capacities to enhance the availability, accessibility and consumption of fortified foods including rice and Thriposha - a maize-based supplementary food product; enhancing programmatic efforts through research on food security and nutrition; and developing a Social Behaviour Change Communication strategy to improve dietary practices amongst Sri Lankans. The Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network was launched in 2019 to increase private sector engagement in nutrition-related solutions.
The national school meals programme functions as an essential safety net which helps bolster children’s access to education, health and nutrition. WFP provides technical and capacity-building assistance to ensure that meals address nutrient deficiency among schoolchildren, including the integration of fortified rice and protein within the meals. The school meals programme is augmented through the home-grown school feeding project, which promotes the use of locally-grown food in school meals, thereby creating economic benefits for local communities.
Resilience building and livelihood support
WFP promotes self-reliance by building resilience and improving incomes among smallholder farmers who are vulnerable to climatic shocks, especially drought. Projects focus on enhancing productivity, diversifying livelihoods, boosting income generation, and improving the nutrition status of vulnerable communities, to help them prepare for, withstand and recover better from recurrent climate-induced shocks. WFP assists with locally driven projects, including environmental conservation, water harvesting and skills training for youth on agricultural equipment repair, with a particular focus on women considering the important role they play in ensuring family and community-level food security.
Emergency preparedness and response
WFP works with the Government to reduce risks and to prepare for and respond to emergencies. WFP has expanded its efforts to adopt a holistic approach towards disaster risk management, aiding Government agencies in building resilience by incorporating risk-reduction initiatives into all aspects of planning. Risk analysis, state-of-the-art, map-based visualizations and planning help the Government in ensuring operational readiness to respond to disasters and other emergencies. WFP’s efforts include ensuring those affected by a disaster have access to food during and in the early recovery phase of a disaster.