Sri Lanka’s political turmoil and economic crisis have brought about a catastrophic food shortage, with the nation’s 21 million residents now forced to pay triple for basics like rice, sugar, lentils and milk powder.

The price of milk powder, the Indian Express noted, jumped by close to 1,000 Sri Lankan rupees in days, about AU$4.40.

One kilogram of rice now costs around 500 rupees. 

The cause of the crisis stems back to Sri Lanka not having enough money to adequately pay for heavily-relied upon imports. The nation’s foreign currency reserves — money held by Sri Lanka from other countries, like United States dollars or Indian rupees — have dropped by 70% over the past two years.

Amita Arudpragasam, a Sri Lankan public policy expert, said years of financial mismanagement by successive governments and the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic put Sri Lanka in the precarious economic position in the first place. 

"Instead of forcing its citizens to starve, the government needs to enact structural reforms economists have been recommending for years,” she told news publication Foreign Policy. “It must lift its suffocating import restrictions and raise taxes on those who can afford them.”

Sri Lanka’s entire cabinet — with the exception of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa — resigned on Monday in an attempt to quell anti-government protests that have erupted throughout the country for weeks. 

The 2021 Global Hunger Index ranked Sri Lanka 65th out of 116 countries, with an overall hunger rating of “moderate.”

Despite improvements from previous years, when the nation was ranked as “alarming” on the scale, the World Food Programme explains undernutrition rates — which include concerns like wasting, stunting and being underweight — have remained essentially unchanged for over a decade.

"Standing at 15%, wasting among children aged under five is among the highest in the world,” the group revealed. “Sri Lanka’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change means extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and landslides continue to compromise food security and nutrition.”

Over 500,000 citizens, meanwhile, were pushed into poverty in the country over the past two years.

You can help Sri Lankans facing food insecurity and hunger through any of the local organisations listed below. 

Care Station


Go Fund Me

Greater Giving Sri Lanka

Feed A Family


Defeat Poverty

Sri Lanka Faces Acute Food Shortages and Starvation Amid Economic Crisis

By Madeleine Keck