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Relief needed for 768,000 people affected by Sri Lanka's severe drought-WFP
August 15,2014   By:Xinhua

COLOMBO, Aug. 15,2014-- A severe drought has hit an estimated 1.5 million Sri Lankans with 768,000 in urgent need of basic food and livelihood requirements, the latest report from the World Food Programme (WFP) said Wednesday.

Three consecutive years of natural disasters have undermined household resilience: populations in affected areas have built up unsustainable levels of debts, have insufficient access to water for irrigation, have limited quality seed supply and are exposed to a continued decline in agricultural income, the report warned.

The severe nine-month drought has affected people in the north, north central and eastern parts of the country.

Severely drought affected areas are the main rice producing regions in Sri Lanka, a vital staple to the population.

Increases in food prices due to drought nudged up Sri Lanka's July inflation to 3.6 percent from 2.8 percent in the previous month, latest data released by the Sri Lanka Central Bank showed.

In 2012, a severe drought reduced growth from the projected 7.2 percent to 6.7 percent. Analysts warn projected growth of 7.8 percent for 2014 could also be similarly affected but the government has not rolled back estimates.

The WFP in its report warned household food consumption has deteriorated sharply. Due to the drought, 18 percent of households consume inadequate diets, a threefold increase from what was once 6 percent. "Immediate coordinated relief and agricultural inputs specifically targeting the vulnerable households are recommended to prevent a further collapse in household resilience," the report noted, pointing out that many families are borrowing heavily to meet daily needs.

The Sri Lankan government initially pledged 1.9 billion rupees (1.47 million U.S. dollars) and then last week boosted it with another 1 million U.S. dollars.

However, Opposition political parties have heavily criticized the government for not having adequate long term plans to deal with drought.

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