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UN food agency urges aid to ‘forgotten victims’ of strife in Sri Lanka

UN food agency urges aid to ‘forgotten victims’ of strife in Sri Lanka

As Sri Lanka enters a critical juncture of its peace process aimed at ending 18 years of internal strife, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today urged international support to alleviate the plight of some 77,000 hungry people in the country.

The lack of adequate donor support has deprived displaced persons of food rations they would normally get from WFP. “The food pipeline has nearly dried up,” said Jeff Taft-Dick, WFP Country Director for Sri Lanka. He blamed the problem in part on the fact that high-profile emergency operations such as the one in Afghanistan were draining limited resources away from prolonged – and lesser-known – shortages in other areas.

“For the last three months, residents of welfare centres [where the displaced are living] have received very little food, if any,” he said. “This is causing great hardship to the most vulnerable members of the centres since they have few alternative sources of food or income with which to purchase it.”

Donors have so far committed to funding only 15 per cent of the estimated 15,000 tonnes of food aid required by Sri Lanka this year, and WFP warned that the country’s current stocks would be insufficient to help those in need. The agency had been scheduled to start a new three-year phase of its operations in Sri Lanka last month, but that effort has been frozen pending more donor pledges. Among the initiatives that were shelved are an expanded and more integrated nutritional support programme for conflict-affected small children and for pregnant or nursing mothers.

Appealing to donors for support, Mr. Taft-Dick said, “We must not let hunger become an obstacle in the road to peace in Sri Lanka.”