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Sri Lanka

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Schoolchildren in Eastern Sri Lanka. Copyright: WFP/Thushara Keerthiratne
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Sri Lanka, with a population of more than 20 million people, is a midde-income country struggling with the after effects of the recently ended 26-year civil war between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Despite significant gains in human development indicators and poverty rates, the effects of the conflict including the disruption of the planting season and land mines in arable lands, together with the onset of the global financial crisis and the impact of sustained high food prices have eroded people's ability to cope.

A joint WFP, UNICEF, and Government nutrition and food security survey conducted in early 2009 states that 20 percent of Sri Lankan households are food insecure. Malnutrition levels stand at 22 percent of the under 5 population, underweight, 19 percent stunted, and 12 percent wasted. Major regional disparities were also recorded. For example 40 percent of children under 5 in the former conflict areas are underweight and 47 percent of children in the same category living on estate plantations are stunted.

In mid May 2009, the 26-year long war in the north ended, having resulted in a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of people who had been trapped by fighting along the north-eastern coast. The rapid influx of IDPs into Vavuniya prompted the Government of Sri Lanka to request WFP as well as other agencies to support its efforts to meet the basic needs of the population. At present approximately 80,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) continue to take shelter in transit/welfare camps, primarily in Vavuniya. As part of the Government's return/resettlement plan, some 200,000 IDPs have already  been returned to their homes or are living with host families. It is unclear when the remaining caseload of beneficiaries in open movement camps will be able to returen to their homes. The mine clearance process is still ongoing.

Across the country, an estimated 1.2 million people are in need of food assistance and livelihood recovery support as a result of conflict and high food prices.

WFP Activities

WFP’s activities in Sri Lanka continue to focus on meeting the food and nutrition needs of the most vulnerable especially returnees as they attempt to regain their livelihoods, thus promoting food security and peace and reconciliation. The main components of WFP interventions in Sri Lanka are:

  • Emergency Support to IDPs returning and resettled IDPS as well as those remaining in camps
  • Nutritional supplementation to pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as to children 6 months to 5 years;
  • School meals to address short term hunger in primary/secondary schools;
  • Rehabilitation, Infrastructure development, and Climate Adaptation activities for returnees.
  • Food-for-training activities 
Threats to Food Security: 
  • Land Mines in former conflict areas
  • High Food Prices
  • Climate Change
  • Disruption of Agricultural Cycle
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legacy ID: 
Sri Lanka
Facts and Figures
Tropical, moderated by the ocean
Flat-to-rolling coastal plains, with mountains rising only in the south-central part.
Food production: 
Rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, spices, tea, rubber, coconuts; milk, eggs, hides, beef; fish
Annual harvest: 
Not available
Agricultural production (% of GDP): 
Human Development Index: 
Children under weight for age (% of children under 5): 
Population undernourished (% of total pop.): 
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infant mortality rate per 1000 live birth - 2005 UNDP : 
Crisis Active: 
No Crisis
Crisis Info: