Sri Lanka has made significant progress in its human development and socioeconomic spheres, since the end of its 26-year civil conflict in 2009. This is reflected in its middle-income status and achievement of most Millennium Development Goals.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the island nation’s tourism industry, while reducing foreign direct investment.
Regulations and restrictions which were introduced to curb the spread 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 socioeconomic challenges, including the impact of a nutritional ‘triple burden’ spanning undernutrition, high levels of overweight and obesity and micronutrient deficiencies. Undernutrition rates had remained largely unchanged for over a decade when the last Demographic and Health Survey was published in 2016.
A high rate of wasting among children aged under-5 years, at 15 percent, places the country among those with the highest rate of wasting 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 ranks 6th on the Global Climate Risk Index 2020, where 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. The award recognizes food as the pathway to peace.
At the height of the civil conflict in Sri Lanka, 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 considerations are integrated across 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; vulnerable communities and smallholder farmers have strengthened livelihoods and resilience in the face of shocks and stressors all-year round.
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; enhancing 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.
The National School Meal Programme, introduced by the Government in 1931, functions as an essential safety net to support children’s access to education, health and nutrition. WFP has been supporting the programme since 2003. It is currently providing technical and capacity-building assistance to ensure that 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 “R5n” builds 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 impacts 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 which includes supporting the development of smart cards for Samurdhi beneficiaries for cash transfers during emergencies.