Sri Lanka – A Food Security Assessment Report
World Food Programme
This report presents the results of an in-depth study of food security in Sri Lanka, a country emerging from decades of violent conflict and still recovering from the worst flooding in recent history.
The assessment is the most wide-ranging study conducted by WFP in Sri Lanka and finds that a majority of the population in the Northern and Eastern parts of the island is food insecure, still re-building their lives and livelihoods which were severely impacted by conflict and compounding floods.
In response to a slow recover, a comprehensive and intensified food security strategy is required. Targeted food assistance, as an important component of an overall livelihood development plan, is found to be imperative, particularly for severely food insecure and vulnerable groups.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) and Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute (HARTI) conducted a joint and comprehensive food security assessment in April 2011. The assessment covered the five recently conflict affected districts of northern Sri Lanka (Jaffna, Killinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Vavuniya) and five of the most flood affected districts in the Eastern and Northern Central Provinces of the country (Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa).
Primary data collection included household interviews for quantitative analysis and key informant interviews for qualitative analysis. The assessment covered 165 locations and 2,474 households, employing a stratified, two-stage random sampling approach. It is the largest survey ever conducted by WFP in Sri Lanka. Findings are statistically representative of the overall population of sampled districts.
Over 60 percent of households in the Northern Province are food insecure (46 percent moderately food insecure and 15 percent severely food insecure). This despite improvements among the returnee1 population in income and food security levels since October 2010. The trend and severity of food insecurity are particularly worrisome in Killinochchi. Low income levels and high food prices have led to weak purchasing power of households in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
As a result, there are signs of asset depletion, high indebtedness and adaptation of relatively serious coping behaviors, especially in the Northern Province. In Vavuniya and Jaffna, the level of need in the not recently returned population – a population not typically the focus of assistance – is of similar severity as the recently returned population.
The most substantial food assistance reduction is expected in Mullaitivu where the situation requires close monitoring in the near future.
Dietary intake shows a clear deterioration from October 2010 to April 2011 among returnees in the Northern Province. A simultaneous and significant reduction of food assistance suggests that food assistance did play an important role in maintaining adequate food consumption for the recently returned population. As food assistance has been gradually scaled down, the dietary intake of households has shown significant deterioration, to levels below what is required.
Batticaloa is also a region of concern. The dramatic floods in January and February affected nearly the entire population and on many food security indicators the district now performs as poorly as the Northern Province.
The floods coincided with the major agricultural season and as a result vast areas of standing crops were washed away or submerged.
Although the effects were devastating, the flood impact on livelihoods is believed to be subsiding. However, in some areas (particularly those where yala is not cultivated) the situationmay not be normalized until early 2012.
The total number of food insecure persons in the sampled area is 1.7 million, 78 percent of whom are in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
Out of the total population, 12 percent are severely food insecure, of which 82 percent are in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Food security interventions are needed to create capacity and productive assets among this very large food insecure population.
Conflict affected households in the Northern Province, especially in Killinochchi and Mullaitivu, and severely flood affected households, particularly in Batticaloa, require sustained and comprehensive action, both interventions to relieve hunger in the short term and medium-term interventions to strengthen livelihoods.
It is necessary to expand the coverage of the Samurthi safety net to food insecure areas of the Northern Province, especially Killinochchi, Mullaitivu and Mannar. Attention should be given to the review of land use policies to resolve the extensive reports of unavailability of land and to the scalingup of agricultural extension services for farming and livestock.
Given prevalent food insecurity, coupled with the deteriorating dietary intake, innovative food assistance – as part of an overall strategy to rebuild productive livelihoods – remains a natural modality of recovery and development assistance.
With the expected continuation of the reduction of food assistance to the Northern Province, it is likely that food security conditions will deteriorate in the coming months, particularly when the lean season approaches.
Therefore, food assistance should be extended to food insecure households until their livelihoods are re-established and systems for the monitoring of the food security situation should be introduced.
Click here for full report (PDF) on WFP.org