WFP says 66 percent Sri Lankans reduce their daily meals
The World Food Programme (WFP) says 66 percent of Sri Lankans surveyed have been found to have reduced the number of meals eaten daily.
The WFP and the Government conducted a joint rapid food security assessment in April.
It surveyed the poorest households in 17 districts and found that 86 percent are using coping mechanisms such as purchasing cheaper, less nutritious food (95 percent); limiting portion sizes (83 percent); and reducing the number of meals eaten daily (66 percent).
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948. The population is struggling to meet their daily food and nutrition needs in the face of shortages and higher food prices for food and fuel.
Employment and household incomes have been battered by COVID and this latest economic crisis, directly affecting people’s ability to afford food and other essential items.
Food inflation in Sri Lanka is 57 percent, driven by rising global food prices, dwindling foreign reserves, unfavourable exchange rates and low domestic food production.
The United Nations is appealing for US$ 47.2 million to meet the most urgent humanitarian needs of 1.7 million people until September. Of this, USD10 million is for WFP activities.
The Government is providing cash transfers to 3.3 million people through its social safety net programme with support from international financial institutions. However, several vital national nutritional support programmes have stalled due to lack of funds.
Sri Lanka’s average monthly household income was estimated at Rs. 76,414 prior to the country’s economy fell deep into a recession and incomes deteriorated in the two years of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, according to Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) data.
While the average household income was over Rs.75, 000 and appeared attractive, this reflects the income for an average household comprising 3.7 people and there are also vast disparities between the three segments—urban, rural and estate.
The latest Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2019 results published by the Department of Census and Statistics recently showed that while the average income of an urban household was at Rs.116,670, the rural family generated an average of Rs.69,517 which has become even weaker for an estate sector family at Rs.46,865.
While the results reflect the average income level when the country entered the pandemic, during the two years of the pandemic the country saw its incomes falling amid hyperinflation resulting in families losing 40 percent of the value of their nominal incomes within just one year through May 2022, based on the official consumer price indices.
The survey also found out that the poorest 20 percent of the households in Sri Lanka were generating only Rs.17,572 while the poorest 40 percent of the households generating Rs.26,931.
However, the richest 20 percent of the households in Sri Lanka on average earn Rs.196,289 per month, which may have grown in the last two years in nominal terms, although their purchasing power fell sharply in the last six months due to double-digit inflation, which accelerated into runaway prices from March onwards.
Meanwhile, the middle 60 percent of the households generated an average monthly income of Rs.56, 079 for a family of 3.7 persons.
This reflects how badly the living standards of 80 percent of the households in Sri Lanka have been affected while the bottom 40 percent may have been plunged into dire poverty due to inflation which acts as an insidious tax on people’s incomes.