One million people in Sri Lanka may face starvation - WFP

[TamilNet, Saturday, 26 April 2008, 15:28 GMT]
“Scarcity of food items and the subsequent escalation in the cost of essential items may result in more than one million in the country facing starvation," Mohamed Saleheen, the resident representative of United Nations (UN) World Food program (WFP) in Colombo told the media Friday. As a result of the situation, the WFP country office in Sri Lanka is facing major crisis, he said, and urged donor countries to respond immediately to overcome the crisis.

TamilNet's initial report, which was based on the story that appeared in Veerakeasari, quoted in its translated opening sentence, Mr. Mohamed Saleheen as saying: "Scarcity of food items and the subsequent escalation in the cost of essential items may soon result in more than one million in the country facing acute famine."

The Resident Representative of WFP, on April 30, contacted TamilNet and requested to issue a correction on the opening sentence of the story. Realising the controversy related to the term "famine," TamilNet has chosen to use the term "starvation" and issued an update to the story, reflecting the concerns of the WFP.

The orginal text of the story that appeared in Veerakeasari on 26 April.
The orginal text of the story that appeared in Veerakeasari on 26 April.
Excerpts from the comments made by Mohamed Saleheen on the impact of spiraling cost of essential food items, reported by Veerakeasari Tamil daily on Saturday, follow:

“More than a million civilians affected by civil war depend on the relief supplies provided by WFP. Most of these are internally displaced and recently resettled people currently residing in Ki'linochchi, Mullaiththeevu, Jaffna, Mannaar, and Batticaloa.

"US$64m has been allocated for our activities in 2008. However, the cost of food supplies has increased by more than fifty percent. As a result the Colombo head office of WFP is facing a huge crisis. Scarcity of the food supplies has led to further problems. This problem is not unique to Sri Lanka but the whole world is currently facing a similar humanitarian crisis.

“Each month 9200 tons of food is required to meet the needs of the people in the North including Ki'linochchi, Mullaiththeevu, Jaffna and Mannaar. However, we are able to ship only 6000 tons. If this crisis continues our activities will become complicated, and over million people dependent on WPF-funded programme will be directly affected. The civilians already suffering by the effects of civil war will be seriously hurt if unable to receive food supplies. The effect of malnutrition will not be felt immediately but will be visible only after a year or two.

“We appeal to the donor countries and the international community to realize the seriousness of the situation and immediately come to the aid of the affected people.

“We welcome the effect of the GoSL implementing price control for the prices of food items.

“In the absence increase in the income of the people, the expenses have gone up by 50 percent, causing serious problems and the only way to find a solution for the situation is to promote agriculture in order to achieve self sufficiency. It is possible to have this done in this country blessed with fertile soil and adequate water supply. In addition the GOSL should create ways and means for the farmers to market their produce at reasonable prices," said Mr. Saleheen.


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