COLOMBO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up emergency food assistance to about 500,000 people in districts of Sri Lanka that have been hardest hit by a second wave of flooding within a month.
Sustained rains over the past week throughout Eastern, North and North-Central Sri Lanka have forced over 180,000 people from their homes and caused major damage to food crops. Most of the displaced people are now housed in some 500 temporary shelters in 13 districts across the island.
“WFP is providing food to help those affected by floods cope with their immediate nutritional needs,” said WFP Sri Lanka Country Director Adnan Khan. “Given the extent of damage to food crops, we are also planning longer term assistance to help people restart their lives and cover serious gaps in household food supplies in the weeks and months ahead.”
Agricultural production has been severely affected by the flooding. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, about 450,000 metric tons of paddy cultivation from the upcoming Maha harvest has been damaged. Local vegetable crops have also been wiped out in many areas, leading to price hikes. The full extent of the damage is difficult to assess, as efforts to carry out assessments have been hampered by difficulties reaching many of the worst affected areas.
Threats to reservoir embankments have compelled authorities to open sluice gates across the island, and several major roads continue to be inundated with flood waters. This comes at a time when people were just starting to return home after fleeing flood waters in mid- January.
WFP is working closely with the Sri Lankan government to access populations in the flood areas. Army land vehicles and navy boats are being deployed to help ensure food supplies reach the hungry in hard to access areas.
The flood relief operation is being launched at a time when WFP is facing an US$13 million shortfall in its existing operation to help people affected by conflict to return to their homes in the north-east. Rations for 250,000 returnees have been at a reduced level since October last year, and unless new funds are immediately forthcoming, WFP will have exhausted all in-country food stocks by April.
For further information:
Ilona Milner, WFP/Sri Lanka, Mob. 0773171036