TE24 International Desk:
Sri Lanka issued an urgent appeal on Monday to tackle rapidly spreading malnutrition among children as its economic crisis has left nine in 10 dependent on state handouts.
The Ministry of Women and Child Affairs said they are seeking private donations to feed possibly several lakh children. Wasting due to insufficient food, AFP reported.
The bankrupt state, dealing with Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence, could not sustain welfare. “When the Covid pandemic was at its peak, the problem was bad, but now, with the economic crisis, the situation is worse,” Secretary Neil Bandara told reporters in Hapuhine, Colombo. Hapuhine said they counted 127,000 malnourished children out of 570,000. Girls and boys under five by mid-2021.
Since then, he estimates that the number has multiplied with the full effect of rampant inflation and severe shortages of food and other essentials. The population is now dependent on the government for financial assistance. Hapuhine said this includes about 1.6 million government employees.
Sri Lanka’s inflation was officially measured at 60.8 percent in July, but private economists say it is more than 100 percent and second only to Zimbabwe.
UNICEF has also issued an appeal for funds saying that children in Sri Lanka have been disproportionately affected by the severe economic crisis. Late last year the country ran out of foreign currency even for essential imports and Colombo defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt.
Under new President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the government is currently negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for relief. The country’s 22 million residents, once South Asia’s highest social index, suffer from long daily power outages, long fuel lines and shortages of basic necessities and medicine.
Last month, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country and resigned after thousands of protesters angry at the economic crisis stormed his official residence.