Australia will supply crisis-hit Sri Lanka with tens of millions in aid to ease dire food, medicine and fuel shortages.
Political turmoil and the “worst economic crisis in 70 years” have gripped the nation for months, spurring Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong to pledge $50 million Monday to help meet urgent humanitarian needs for much of the population.
Of the $50 million, just under half will go directly to the World Food Programme (WFP).
"Australia has a close and long-standing relationship with Sri Lanka,” Wong said in a media release. “Not only do we want to help the people of Sri Lanka in its time of need, there are also deeper consequences for the region if this crisis continues.”
Australia’s WFP contribution comes just days after the organisation launched its emergency Sri Lankan response.
The emergency food and nutrition assistance package aims to counteract the food insecurity endured by 3 million of the most vulnerable Sri Lankans. Lifesaving vouchers, meanwhile, are expected to help over 2,000 pregnant women buy basics like rice, sugar, lentils and milk powder — all of which have recently spiked in price.
"We are deeply grateful to the Australian Government for this critical funding,” John Aylieff, WFP regional director for Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement. “At a time when millions of people are struggling to meet their most basic food needs, and while families’ coping capacities are being stretched to the limit, we can avert a worsening humanitarian crisis by stepping up our response, now.”
The WFP says it will require $60 million in funding to provide adequate assistance between now and the end of the year.
Millions of people in #SriLanka are struggling to afford basic foods while national safety nets like school meals disrupted.— World Food Programme (@WFP) June 21, 2022
"We've cut back as much as we can. I don’t know what it will be like next," says Muniwara, a former school meals caterer.https://t.co/HJDVCLCi0Lpic.twitter.com/IjV4l7Ezy2
According to recent estimates, almost 5 million people, just over one-fifth of the population, are food insecure.
Record inflation highs of over 57% in the nation’s capital, Colombo, in May this year means most of those living in poverty are unable to afford fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, the WFP reports. A survey by the organisation further revealed that 86% of families are now either eating less, skipping meals or limiting their intake of nutritious, fresh food.
Australia’s $50 million aid injection sits alongside the seperate, official $23 million in development assistance allocated for the country over the 2022 and 2023 period. An additional $5 million was also given to the United Nations to be spent on Sri Lanka earlier this year.
Australia was likewise one of the earliest donors to respond to Sri Lanka’s first COVID-19 outbreak.
Over $110 million has thus far been provided by Australia to address the pandemic’s health and economic impacts.