More than one-third of Sri Lanka’s population is food insecure, amid the country’s worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948. For a country in which food insecurity was at 9.1 percent in 2019,1 the shock of the current crisis is reverberating across all facets of life.
People are being forced to rely on coping strategies to keep food on the table. Around eight in ten households are regularly turning to food-based coping strategies such as sacrificing meals, borrowing food, and reducing the number of meals eaten.
July was a particularly harsh month. Nearly half of the population (49 percent) faced food insecurity in July, in what was a drastic hike from 28 percent in June. This came at the peak of political instability, high month-tomonth food inflation, and intense fuel shortages.
Diets are in a precarious state. Nearly four in ten households are facing insufficient food consumption, with many consuming far less diverse diets as food prices remain high across the country.
The instability comes amid escalating anxieties about prices. Almost all families (92 percent) are worried about food prices. Meanwhile, four in ten families are worried about fuel prices. There has been little to allay these concerns, which have been creeping higher and higher in recent months.
The crisis is wreaking disproportionate impacts across different segments of society. This was seen across a range of divides – female-headed households are faring worse than male-headed households, while those in estate and urban areas are also faring worse than those in rural areas. Similar disparities can be found across education levels and income sources.
In the face of inaction, the situation could deteriorate even further. The upcoming months could see a combination of factors continue to exert pressure on food insecurity, including poor harvest forecasts of staple foods, import restrictions, and the ongoing economic crisis.