An ongoing economic crisis and political instability have pushed food price inflation above 90%, with fuel shortages disrupting food safety, livelihoods and access programs Millions of people are vulnerable to food insecurity.
Pregnancy and anxiety
As the food stamp distribution was in progress, the women went up the open stairs to the first floor lobby to wait their turn. Many of them are young and in their first pregnancy. The floor is crowded, but everyone is wearing masks as a precaution COVID-19 infection.
Although most of the faces are covered, Concern and concern were evident in their eyes.
33-year-old Dushanthi, a mother of three and a housewife in the last trimester of her pregnancy, was among the women who received vouchers that could be redeemed for food items worth 15,000 Sri Lankan Rupees, just over $40.
“Our lives have become more difficult these days. Everyone is facing economic hardship with no fuel and high prices, but we (pregnant women) Finding it is even more difficult‘ she said while sitting on a concrete pedestal, with other women.
Her resilience is remarkable as she patiently explains what the voucher means to her.
“This is a huge support for pregnant women like me. It will not only help me but my unborn baby too. I want to use this voucher to buy healthy food like lentils and fruit for me and my kids,” adds Dushanthi.
While these vouchers are dedicated to supporting pregnant women who are facing severe nutritional deficiencies, it is clear that these vouchers will be used to support the whole family, as the need is too big.
In Dushanti’s case, her child, both parents and husband, who no daily salary for a while.
Three out of 10 Sri Lankans are food insecure amid the country’s worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under 5 and people with disabilities, are the hardest hit.
The Government’s efforts to maintain vital support programs are severely limited by the economic crisis. Women and children who have benefited from national social safety net programs are left without this vital lifeline and are at serious nutritional and health risk.
The growing threat of malnutrition
The Leading Thriposha Nutrition Support Program for pregnant and lactating mothers and young children on hold. Together with income loss and inflation, this can lead to higher rates of malnutrition among women and their children.
Udeni Dematapaksha, special chief nurse at Kuppiyawatta Maternal Health Clinic, is acutely aware of the struggle these mothers are going through, and a hint of desperation can be felt in her voice. Teacher.
“In the past, we have supported Thriposha for pregnant and lactating women. But since January they don’t receive it. Today we are distributing vouchers to pregnant mothers, and this is very valuable,” said the head nurse.
A young midwife, Tarni, is quick to describe the irony situation they face, as they have to make a list of nutritious foods and fruits that pregnant women must supplement for their well-being. family and unborn children, despite knowing that most of them are deformed. within reach.
“Many families don’t cook anymore and have to arrange for poor quality meals from different places because that’s all they can afford. These are difficult times, and we are very concerned about mothers,” she added.
Even before the ongoing crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lankan women and children suffered much higher rates of malnutrition than most other middle-income countries: 17% children under 5 are too short for their age (stunting) and 15% are too thin for their height (wasting), a number considered ‘very tall’ in WHO classification.
Food is hope
“Focusing on vulnerable populations and communities is a priority to avert a humanitarian crisis“Indu Abeyratne, Operations Director with WFP Sri Lanka, who are closely involved in the deployment of the emergency response.
Every woman we met at the distribution store had a fair idea of what they wanted to use the gift certificate for. Some of these would have been basic and staple in normal times but are now out of reach – such as the young pregnant woman who listed papaya as her first purchase, because she was craving for it.
“Food stamps are the first of many nutritional support interventions these women need. But they are full of hope when they have coupons in their hands‘ added Abeyratne.
WFP will reach nearly 1.5 million people in urgent need of food assistance through food, cash or vouchers.
While leveraging the existing social safety net to support one million children through the national school meal program, there will be one million targeted beneficiaries as part of the government initiative to provide grant complementary foods for mothers and children.
Nearly 6.3 million people are food insecure and in need of assistance. Recent WFP surveys indicate that 61% of families are using at least one coping mechanism, including eating less, eating less nutritious food, and even skipping meals altogether.