Children in Sri Lanka go hungry as food costs rise.


Children in Sri Lanka go hungry as food costs rise. Nitisha is limited in her ability to play. The three-year-old is underweight and has weakness and leg pain. Nitisha is malnourished and underfed, according to the doctor’s conclusive diagnosis.

The advised cure, however—wholesome meals—is out of reach for her family.

This family from a tea estate village in Hanthana, in the country’s center, has seen their finances collapse, much like many other individuals in Sri Lanka.

“We eat the same thing for our daily meals, either rice with potatoes or lentils. Nothing else is within our means, “says Nitisha’s mother, Harshini. The family hasn’t had milk or eggs in weeks, she continued.

A month-old Harshini’s younger daughter was also born underweight. Thyroxine, a crucial growth hormone, is absent in the infant. The infant now joins the expanding group of newborns with low birth weight, which directly results from inadequate nutrition during pregnancy.

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The economic crisis in Sri Lanka has been centered on food. Food costs are rising while incomes are declining. Families must skip meals and go without food.

Now, more kids in Nitisha’s village are getting sick more frequently. Younger patients who are not eating enough are being seen more regularly, according to doctors in the area.

One doctor who requested anonymity said that the effects of malnutrition take time to manifest. Most undernourished children are currently utilizing their body’s reserves, but a persistent nutrient deficiency would have long-term consequences.

According to UNICEF, 56,000 children in the nation are believed to be severely acutely malnourished.

According to the most recent data from the World Food Program, around a third of Sri Lankan households do not have a reliable food source, and nearly 70% are cutting back on meal sizes.

Malnutrition and mothers

Kanchana, a 24-year-old woman from Hanthana, is four months along with her pregnancy and is carrying twins.

“I often become hungry while caring for the twins and eat rice. Fruits, fish, and eggs are better but more expensive. We must decide between purchasing pricey food or paying for the exams and medications.”

We met Devi in a different village a few kilometers distant. She is anemic despite being dangerously underweight and pregnant with her second kid. Only a rice meal and free vitamin supplements from the government clinic are available as options for enhancing her health.

Hungry school children

According to Anoma Sriyangi Dharmawardhane, vice principal of Horawala Maha Vidyalaya in Mathugama, southern Sri Lanka, “the majority of these students, from primary grades, were arriving to school without eating anything.” Three to four months ago, at least 20 to 25 kids would frequently pass out during school assemblies.

With the help of parents who offered to prepare meals, the school began to serve porridge and implement a noon meal program. To keep the program going, donations are needed.

In some areas of Sri Lanka, community kitchens and food distributions like this fill in some of the gaps, but many children still go without meals.

According to S Visvalingam, President of the Food First Information & Action Network, “at least 20% of youngsters eat no breakfast and go to school [on an] empty stomach.”

FIAN has been planning food programs for elementary and secondary school students for the past six months.

Officials from the Sri Lankan government have admitted the mounting acute malnutrition epidemic after previously denying it. Recent data from the family health bureau of the health ministry revealed that in the past year, there had been a significant increase in children’s stunting, low height for age, wasting, and low weight for height.

The government announced in October that it would expand its program to provide toddlers with supplements and free lunches at school.

Mr. Visvalingam cautions, however, that Sri Lanka’s issues are likely to worsen before they improve.

“I don’t think [the] financial crisis can be resolved in the short term, and through this period, the nutrition problem is only going to get worse,” he said.