Sri Lanka’s vulnerable forced to risk “a pathway to destitution"

A Sri Lankan family stand outside their home. Families and children in the country are resorting to very risky situations to survive, even just for a day

A Sri Lankan family stand outside their home. Families and children in the country are resorting to very risky situations to survive, even just for a day

Photo: Sri Lanka Red Cross

Colombo/Kuala Lumpur, 14 October 2022 – The deepening economic crisis is forcing people to make heartbreaking choices between going hungry, buying life-saving medicine, or finding the money to send children to school.

A needs assessment conducted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in 11 of the country’s 25 districts has found that 96% of the more than 2,900 households surveyed have been affected by the current crisis in some way—with food insecurity, health, livelihoods, and nutrition among the top concerns. Deteriorating physical safety and security, as well as violence against women and children, stood out.

The report uncovered worryingly high problems of access to food, either because of high cost, income stress or lack of availability. Runaway inflation and loss of livelihoods have doubly impacted people’s ability to cope with the record cost of living. Income loss is causing significant food insecurity, while inflation is driving up the cost of medicine and fuel costs are preventing access to essential healthcare.

The report gravely warns that without immediate humanitarian interventions, the impact on communities is likely to be long-lasting and cumulative.

Director General of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, Dr Mahesh Gunasekara, said:

“We work on the ground and at the heart of communities. We hear the most heart-wrenching stories of loss of hope and gripping fear for the future. Life for them is like losing the battle for survival; for single women with children, people living with disabilities, the elderly, casual labourers, and fishermen.

“The most vulnerable need our help now so they can get through the worst of the economic crisis. We need to act to ensure lives are saved and restored.”

Speaking on a visit to Colombo to meet affected communities, the Government and the diplomatic community, the Regional Director, Asia Pacific of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Alexander Matheou, said:

“The report provides first-hand evidence of how the most vulnerable people, who are already under the poverty line, are being driven further towards despair. As a result, people are resorting to borrowing heavily, eating less food and fewer times per day, pawning valuables and assets, and using other survival strategies just to scrape by.

“Our main priorities remain meeting humanitarian needs at its worst. Unless this is done effectively and quickly, people who are struggling now will find themselves on a demeaning pathway to destitution from which there is no escape. The time to act is now.”

To meet the country’s spiralling needs, the IFRC has launched an Emergency Appeal for urgent humanitarian assistance for 28 million Swiss francs in support of Sri Lanka Red Cross.

In line with the IFRC appeal, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) supports the Sri Lanka Red Cross to respond to the humanitarian issues arising from the economic crisis with a focus on providing medical equipment to the healthcare system and economic assistance to vulnerable people.

To arrange an interview, get access to audio-visuals, or for more information, contact:

In Colombo:
Kate Marshall, +94 77357 6408,
[email protected]

In Kuala Lumpur:
Rachel Punitha, +60-197-913-830,
[email protected]

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