An entrepreneur who launched a philanthropic programme in schools together with the government said that students take home part of their school lunch for their hungry parents. Without immediate action, malnutrition could become a major problem in rural areas. Experts are set to present a plan for economic stability.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has brought to the fore tragic stories of malnutrition and food insecurity, especially among low-income families in rural areas.
A well-known business leader, who is involved in a corporate social responsibility project in rural schools, spoke anonymously to AsiaNews about one, shocking story.
"A school principal asked me if we could increase the volume of the contents of the food packages provided to the school,” the business leader explained.
“He (the principal) told me that many children eat only half of the package and take the rest home to feed their starving mothers. In fact, many mothers are starving to feed their children in many parts of Sri Lanka, but now the scenario has been reversed.”
President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government has recently undertaken some initiatives to ensure that school-age children can have at least a guaranteed lunch.
Until recently, many pupils were dropping out of school because of the precarious state of their families, but now they are going back to class thanks to such programmes.
“Over 600,000 workers in the construction sector have lost their jobs,” an economic expert noted. “Due to the recession, small and medium-sized enterprises have closed. Hence, starvation has spread in rural areas to almost incurable levels.”
“It is thus necessary to find solutions to food insecurity and provide food to school and pre-school children from low-income families, as child malnutrition is a devastating tragedy, not a problem that can be easily overlooked.”
According to Sri Lanka’s Department of Census and Statistics (DCS), the country’s economy is estimated to have contracted by 4.8 per cent in the first half of 2022, on a year-on-year basis. Overall, this year, its gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract by 9.2 per cent, followed by a further 4.2 per cent next year.
In view of the situation, experts are set to present in the coming weeks a roadmap and a work plan for a new short, medium, and long-term strategy to return the country to economic stability. A group of government officials and top economic analysts are working on the plan.
"The Presidential Secretariat will introduce a new social market system with a strong safety net for the poor, underprivileged and vulnerable groups, while strengthening small and medium-sized enterprises,” government officials told AsiaNews.
This is part of “President Ranil Wickremesinghe's vision [for the economy], which, with the endorsement of parliament, will make it stable and unchanged for the next 25 years,"
"The main objective of this policy is to create a surplus in the primary budget by 2025 and raise economic growth rate to a stable level so as to bring down the public debt to a level below 100 per cent of GDP by 2032. Currently, it is almost 140 per cent.”