Feb 14, Colombo: Concluding a three-day mission to Sri Lanka, the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, joined government, civil society, the private sector, academia and the UN community in the launch of the National Strategic Review on Food Security and Nutrition - Towards Zero Hunger.
National Strategic Review on Food Security and Nutrition will help shape and inform the country's ongoing efforts to achieve the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG2) of zero hunger.
Cousin praised the efforts of the Government to place food and nutrition security at the core of the country's overall development agenda.
"This Strategic Review offers concrete short and long term recommendations for achieving zero hunger. The Sri Lankan Government has embraced the recommendations for addressing the food security and nutrition challenges created by recurrent droughts and floods," said Cousin.
According to WFP, while Sri Lanka made significant progress over the past 15 years during the Millennium Development Goal era, substantial challenges still exist. They will require both innovation and synchronized efforts from the government, development partners and other stakeholders to address and achieve the SDGs.
"Every Government official with whom I met welcomed the offer of assistance from WFP for meeting the needs of those affected by the most recent drought while also acknowledging the assistance and value of the Strategic Review in fulfilling the country's potential to feed its own people. The Sri Lankan leaders I met are clearly committed to developing sustainable food systems," said Cousin, after her meeting yesterday with President Maithripala Sirisena.
WFP and the Government are planning to expand existing cash and food for work programs to support farmers and rural communities who risk falling deeper into food insecurity because of the current drought.
Estimates indicate that already around one million people across the country have been affected by the drought in the form of lost crops or income and restricted access to water. The Government currently estimates that some 480,000 food-insecure people will need assistance to prevent them spiraling deeper into debt, hunger and hardship.
Cousin attended the launch on Monday of Sri Lanka's National Strategic Review on Food Security and Nutrition, the blueprint for the country's ongoing efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2; end hunger, achieve improved food security and nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030. The exceptional research effort was led by former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, chairperson of the South Asia Policy and Research Institute, and involved consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. The review received strong support from the Institute for Policy Studies, the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute, the Department of Census and Statistics and the Medical Research Institute.
"This strategic review provides a framework for the partnerships across sectors that are vital to translate global aims into local actions. The Government has shown strong leadership in the review process but addressing the ambitious recommendations in the report will also require partnerships with private sector, civil society, academia, NGOs and the UN," said the WFP Director.
"WFP is also changing the way it works, and through its five-year Country Strategic Plan will seek to ensure its activities are closely aligned with the priorities set by the Government," added Cousin.
In her meetings with the President and cabinet ministers, Cousin discussed how WFP could support Sri Lanka's efforts to create more robust, resilient food systems, to overcome climate-induced shocks that are increasingly frequent.
Cousin also traveled to Monaragala, one of the country's poorest districts, to view WFP's work to boost the resilience of vulnerable communities. She visited cash for work programs involving organic home and community gardens and elephant fencing, designed to prevent the loss of lives homes and farms due to elephant-human conflict, which is likely to be exacerbated by the current drought.