The United Nations has made an appeal for USD 47.2 million to provide life-saving assistance to crisis hit Sri Lanka, as it noted that shortage of medicines and surgical consumables will ease in the medium term with the support of a credit line from India and other partners.
The United Nations team in Sri Lanka and non-governmental organisations launched the joint Humanitarian Needs and Priorities (HNP) Plan on Thursday, calling for USD 47.2 million to provide life-saving assistance to 1.7 million people worst-hit by the economic crisis in Sri Lanka over a four-month period between June and September.
The plan that directly responds to the Sri Lankan government’s request for a United Nations-backed multi-sector international assistance to fulfil the most urgent needs, including focus on health care and essential medicines, food and agriculture — particularly targeted nutrition services — safe drinking water, emergency livelihoods and protection.
A report on the Humanitarian Needs and Priorities — Food Security Crisis in Sri Lanka by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on behalf of the humanitarian country team and partners — said that for the the next three months health support provided by humanitarian partners will focus on ensuring the availability of vital and essential medicines and medical supplies in order to save lives and keep vital health services functioning.
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The World Health Organisation “has been able to spearhead the provision of donations in the short term (to meet the urgent gap for medicines and supplies) while in the medium term the shortage of medicines /surgical equipments will ease with the support of a credit line from India, and support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank (WB) from August onwards,” it said.
In March, India announced a billion dollar line of credit to Sri Lanka as part of its financial assistance to help the island nation deal with its worst economic crisis since its independence from Britain in 1948.
After an agreement to extend the line of credit was inked, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India has always stood with the people of Sri Lanka and will continue to extend all possible support to the country.
He explained that the assistance would be used for importing food, medicines, and other essential items.
“India has always stood with the people of Sri Lanka and we will continue to extend all possible support at this juncture. I think we are cognizant of the economic difficulties the country is facing,” Bagchi has said.
In April, India also agreed to extend an additional USD 500 million credit line to help Sri Lanka import fuel, former finance minister Ali Sabry said, amid delays in chalking out a bailout package with the IMF to mitigate the dire financial crisis facing the island nation.
UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer-Hamdy underlined the urgent need to prevent a humanitarian crisis later in the year, while bridging efforts towards more long-term development needs.
“Sri Lanka’s once-strong healthcare system is now in jeopardy, livelihoods are suffering and the most vulnerable are facing the greatest impact. Now is the time for the international community to show solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka,” she said, adding that the UN and humanitarian partners were “calling on donors, the private sector and individuals” to urgently support this plan to provide life-saving assistance to vulnerable Sri Lankans most affected by the crisis.
She said the assistance would “prevent a deterioration of humanitarian needs in the country”.
The UN said that Sri Lanka, which is facing its worst economic crisis, in May recorded a food inflation of 57.4 per cent.
It said there was a severe shortage of key food items, including fuel for cooking, transport, and industry, with ongoing daily power outages.
The island nation’s economy is bracing for a sharp contraction due to the unavailability of basic inputs to production, an 80 per cent depreciation of the currency since March, coupled with a lack of foreign reserves and the country’s failure to meet its international debt obligations.
The economic crisis has particularly impacted food security, agriculture, livelihoods, and access to health services.
Food production in the last harvest season was 40 to 50 per cent lower than last year, and the current agricultural season is at risk, with seeds, fertilisers, fuel and credit shortages.
Nearly five million people or about 22 per cent of the population are currently in need of food assistance.
Latest surveys reveal that 86 per cent of households are using at least one coping mechanism such as reducing food intake, including skipping meals.
“Multiple factors are impacting Sri Lanka’s food security situation, if we don’t act now, many families will be unable to meet their basic food needs,” said Singer-Hamdy.
An IMF bailout programme is being currently worked out and expected to be available in the last quarter of the year.
Wickremesinghe had earlier announced that extended credit lines from India were being sought until the availability of the IMF facility.