Thursday 18, August 2022
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Sri Lanka seeks urgent help to feed children

News Desk: Sri Lanka issued an urgent appeal on Monday to tackle rapidly spreading malnutrition among children as its economic crisis leaves nine out of 10 people dependent on state handouts.

The ministry for women and child affairs said they were seeking private donations to feed possibly several hundred thousand children wasting due to insufficient food.

The bankrupt state, grappling with Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence, was unable to sustain welfare.

‘I don’t believe it’s the time for him to return,’ he said. ‘I have no indication of him returning soon,’ the President said in an interview Sunday with The Wall Street Journal.

‘When the Covid pandemic was at its peak, the problem was bad, but now, with the economic crisis, the situation is far worse,’ secretary Neil Bandara Hapuhinne told reporters in Colombo.

Hapuhinne said they had counted 1,27,000 malnourished children among the 5,70,000 girls and boys below the age of five in mid-2021.

Since then, he estimated the numbers have increased several fold with the full impact of rampant inflation and dire shortages of food and other essentials.

He said the number of people receiving direct state handouts has almost doubled in the past year with over 90 per cent of the population now relying on the government for financial help.

Hapuhinne said these included about 1.6 million government employees.

Sri Lanka’s inflation was officially measured at 60.8 per cent in July, but private economists say it is well over 100 per cent and second only to Zimbabwe.

UNICEF has also issued an appeal for funding saying that children in Sri Lanka were disproportionately affected by the severe economic crisis.

The country ran out of foreign exchange to finance even essential imports late last year and Colombo defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in mid-April.

Under embattled new president Ranil Wickremesinghe, the government is now in bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund.

The country’s 22 million people endure lengthy daily power cuts, long queues for fuel and shortages of staple food and medicines in a country that once had South Asia’s best social indicators.

Last month, former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country and quit after thousands of protesters angry at the economic crisis stormed his official residence.

Wickremesinghe said it wasn’t the right time for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to return to Sri Lanka, saying it could inflame political tensions among tens of thousands of protesters who rallied to oust him over his management of the economy, reports Daily Mirron online.

Cabinet spokesman Bandula Gunawardena said on Tuesday that Rajapaksa wasn’t in hiding and was expected to return. But Wickremesinghe, who said he remained in contact with Rajapaksa to deal with administrative handover issues and other government business, said Rajapaksa hadn’t told him he planned to return to Sri Lanka soon.

‘I don’t believe it’s the time for him to return,’ he said. ‘I have no indication of him returning soon,’ the President said in an interview Sunday with The Wall Street Journal.

SK

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