1.9 Million Affected By Drought – DMC Thousands Of Families Reduced To One Meal A Day – UN Farmer Suicides Increase

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By 2017-09-26

By Paneetha Ameresekere

The devastating drought, said to be the worst in 40 years, has resulted in over 300,000 households being food insecure, with many households limiting their food intake and some being reduced to eating just one meal a day, a UN report released on Tuesday (19 September) said.

As of Tuesday, 1,927,069 people were estimated to be affected by the drought, across 17 districts, according to the Disaster Management Centre (DMC), more than double the previous estimate of 900,000.

The Agriculture Department said that due to the floods in May and ongoing drought impacting this year's primary and secondary (Maha and Yala) harvests, this year's rice harvest is expected to be the lowest in the last 10 years, the UN said.

Production forecast for the year (2017) estimates that there will be rice sufficient for just over seven months of household consumption, the UN said.

Latest Central Bank of Sri Lanka data showed that as a result of the drought, the recently harvested Yala paddy crop showed a decline of 32.83% year on year (YoY) to 1,019,000 metric tons, while the total Maha 2016/17 and this year's Yala paddy crop together has seen paddy production decline by 1, 916,130 metric tons (43.35%) to 2,503,870 tonnes.

'The inability of farmers to cultivate their land has also caused the availability of agricultural work to decline and consequently in many drought-affected communities, indebtedness is rising.

Fifty percent of households, surveyed in a recent UN World Food Programme (WFP) assessment, reported that their debts have almost doubled compared to 2016 due to a lack of agriculture based income.

" This is having serious consequences for the health and wellbeing of communities, with several suicides being directly attributed to the effects of the drought," the UN said.

The UN led Sri Lanka Humanitarian Country Team is currently updating its Drought Response Plan which outlines the support that UN agencies and NGOs have provided and are planning to provide, in the short, medium and long-term.

The next update, from the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator, on Sri Lanka's drought situation, can be expected on or around 3 October 2017, it said.

According to latest Census and Statistics Department (CSD) data, Sri Lanka's total population as at the middle of last year comprised 21,203,000. Therefore, 1,927,069 people being gripped by the drought is equivalent to 9.1% of Sri Lanka's total population.

According to latest CSD data, Sri Lanka comprised 5.1 million households as at 2012/13. Therefore, 300,000 households being affected by the drought comprised 5.9% of Sri Lanka's total households.




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