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900,000 affected by famine and debt in SL- WFP

(UDHAYAM, COLOMBO) – A joint World Food Program (WFP) and Sri Lankan Government survey reveals that 900,000 Sri Lankans are suffering from acute food insecurity and rising debt due to the drought. One third of the houses in the survey claimed that their income dropped by half since September 2016, 60% of them  were in debt. The average amount of debt was about Rs. 180,000. The survey will be published at the end of March.

The Government estimates that over 1.2 million people in total are affected by the drought. The Northern and North Western Provinces are the most affected, with over 400,000 affected by the drought. Save the Children, a charity, estimates that 600,000 children are affected by the food shortage.

The paddy harvest has suffered greatly during the drought. Save the Children believes it will be the worst in 40 years, with a drop of 63% in rice production. The WPF predicts this year’s harvest to be half of the 3 million metric tons produced in 2016.

Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, the Minister of Disaster Management, said, “We have a shortfall in the rice harvest. We have been taking action to prevent any shortfalls and will allow for tax-free rice imports until the harvest recovers.” He added that “we will begin cash assistance very soon.”

Many drought affected families, especially female headed households, are in the ‘poor’ category. The Government has set aside Rs. 8 billion to assist 500,000 persons. Over 50 million rupees has been allocated for water distribution.

The Meteorological Department predicts that the drought, which began in November 2016, will continue till the end of April. Lalith Chandrapala, the Director General of the Meteorological Department, said that heavy rains will come with the next monsoon in May.

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