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The Children Go Hungry

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has expressed serious concern over the current political and economic situation in Sri Lanka, saying that children are spending days without food in the tiny island nation. George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, has warned that the rest of the countries in the region might also face a food crisis, like Sri Lanka, if they do not take action now.

Sri Lanka has lost its ability to import, apart from facing other problems, due to a shortage in foreign exchange. George Laryea-Adjei has stated: “Families are skipping regular meals as staple foods become unaffordable. Children are going to bed hungry, unsure of where their next meal will come from – in a country which already had South Asia’s second highest rate of severe acute malnutrition.

George Laryea-Adjei with a Sri Lankan girl

The senior UNICEF official further said: “As the economic crisis continues to rattle Sri Lanka, it is the poorest, most vulnerable girls and boys who are paying the steepest price. Almost half of children in Sri Lanka already require some form of emergency assistance. The education of 4.8 million children, already severely hampered by two years of interrupted learning, is at risk as school attendance continues to be jeopardised.

Meanwhile, UNICEF has appealed for USD 25.3 million to meet the urgent needs of at least 1.7 million Sri Lankan children affected by the economic crisis. The Government of Sri Lanka, too, has urged the global community to send an aid package, in order to help Colombo tackle growing malnutrition among children. For his part, Christian Skoog, UNICEF Representative in Sri Lanka, stated: “The current crisis is stretching families to their limits. Children are going to bed distressed and on empty stomachs. Many children are not regularly attending school, and hospitals are fast running out of medicines, including for children and pregnant women. If we do not act now, it is the most vulnerable boys and girls who will pay the highest price for a crisis not of their making.

It may be noted that the Sri Lankan economy was heavily dependent on the tourism industry and agriculture. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 Pandemic in December 2019, the island nation has experienced a decrease in the arrival of foreign tourists. In 2021, the former Mahinda Rajapaksa Government‘s decision to ban all chemical fertilisers in an attempt to make agriculture 100% organic badly hit the farm production, especially production of rice, forcing the reversal of this decision. Once a major exporter of food grains, Sri Lanka started reeling under its worst economic crisis. As the country has been facing an acute shortage of food grains, the scenario has triggered panic among farmers.

Experts are of the opinion that it is not possible for Sri Lanka to tackle the situation without international help.

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