The Sri Lankan Government has donated a total of 10,000 metric tons of white rice which will be sent to Ethiopia, where tens of thousands of refugees have fled, after devastating drought contributed to famine in Somalia last year. The first shipment of 500 metric tons is scheduled to leave Colombo port in the next few days.
H.E. President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a symbolic handover of the rice to WFP’s Acting Country Director, Ms. Azeb Asrat during a ceremony attended by senior government officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Paddy Marketing Board and representatives from WFP.
“This donation will help provide critical food and nutritional assistance to hungry people, in particular Somali families who fled famine conditions in their native land and are now living in camps in Ethiopia,” said Ms. Asrat.
WFP is current providing food assistance for 300,000 refugees in Ethiopia; refugees fleeing conflict and hunger are still crossing into Ethiopia from Somalia and since September 2011, also from Sudan.
WFP has been in Sri Lanka for more than 40 years and has been supporting the Government with the provision of large scale humanitarian and recovery assistance during the devastating 2005 tsunami, and more recently to conflict-affected IDPs in camps and resettled communities in the northern and eastern districts.
The Government has also recently pledged a further 500 metric tons of white rice to the World Food Programme in Sri Lanka, which will be utilized to meet remaining humanitarian needs amongst resettled households in the north of the island.