- of Sri Lanka’s land is in dry and intermediate zones which face frequent water shortages
- of children under 5 suffer from wasting
- of women of reproductive age are obese or overweight
Sri Lanka has made significant progress in its human development and socioeconomic indicators since the end of its 26-year civil conflict in 2009, as reflected in its middle-income status. The country is on the path to achieving several of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 severely affected the island nation’s tourism industry, while reducing foreign direct investment. Regulations and restrictions to curb successive waves of the pandemic have hampered income-earning opportunities, impacting food and nutrition security in the country.
In spite of its progress, the country faces many socio-economic challenges, including the impact of a nutritional ‘triple burden’ spanning undernutrition, high levels of overweight and obesity, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Undernutrition rates had remained largely unchanged for over a decade when the last Demographic and Health Survey was published in 2016.
Standing at 15 percent, wasting among children aged under 5 is among the highest in the world. 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’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change means extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and landslides continue to compromise food security and nutrition.
WFP has been working with the Government of Sri Lanka since 1968 to address the underlying causes of food insecurity and malnutrition. In 2020, WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger and its contribution to bettering conditions for peace, recognizing food as the pathway to peace.
At the height of the civil conflict in Sri Lanka, WFP helped feed 1.3 million people on both sides of the conflict. The organization has since shifted from emergency response to providing support to the Government and other partners through sustainable solutions that help achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
WFP assists the Government by providing technical and policy support in building national capacities 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 empowerment is integrated into all aspects of WFP activities, to promote equality and strengthen food and nutrition security for women and girls.
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 climate shocks (such as floods) and stressors (such as water scarcity and rainfall variability).
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 improve the availability, accessibility and consumption of fortified foods; strengthening programmatic efforts through research on food security and nutrition; and developing a social behaviour change communication strategy to improve dietary practices. The Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network was launched in 2019 to increase private sector engagement in nutrition-related solutions.
WFP has been supporting the National School Meal Programme since 2003. The programme was introduced by the Government in 1931 as an essential safety net to support children’s access to education, health and nutrition. WFP provides technical and capacity-building assistance to ensure that the meals address nutrient deficiencies among schoolchildren. The programme is augmented through the Home-Grown School Feeding project, which promotes the use of locally grown food in school meals.
Resilience building and livelihood support
WFP, in partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka, works to strengthen food systems and ensure access and availability of food all year round. WFP’s flagship project R5 helps strengthen resilience among smallholder farmers, assisting them in preparing for recurring climate-induced shocks through better access to climate forecasts and resources. Activities include helping farmers diversify their sources of income; improving access to markets; and climate-proofing community assets.
Emergency preparedness and response
WFP works with the Government to develop shock-responsive safety-net programmes, to better prepare for and respond to shocks, in order to safeguard communities and development gains. WFP helps improve national capacities to adapt to and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, by supporting information management and enabling coordination among partners for effective emergency planning, to ensure people have access to food all year round, even in times of crisis.
WFP works with the Department of Samurdhi, which conducts the largest national safety net programme, to protect families in emergencies, while safeguarding gains on the road to zero hunger. WFP helps strengthen the shock-responsive capacities of the programme and works to enhance existing national safety nets. The latter includes supporting the development of smart cards for Samurdhi beneficiaries, for cash transfers during emergencies.