Senior USAID official visits Sri Lanka to understand needs of food-insecure communities

Stephanie Wilcock, Director for Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean of USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance with a group of people in Rathnapura enrolled to receive WFP cash assistance through USAID funding

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomed Stephanie Wilcock, Director for Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) on a visit to Sri Lanka. During the visit, Wilcock met with poor rural communities to understand their food and nutrition needs, and how WFP’s US-funded programmes will help them overcome challenges brought on by the economic crisis.   

As part of the visit, Wilcock travelled to Rathnapura, where she spoke with food-insecure families faced with high food prices and unemployment. The community will soon receive US-funded cash assistance through WFP worth LKR 20,000 (approximately US$55) for four consecutive months which will empower them with the choice to meet their essential needs in local markets, while also helping to boost the economy.

“Sri Lanka continues to experience significantly high levels of food insecurity, affecting over 30 percent of the population, most notably among the poor” said Gerard Rebello, Acting Country Director for WFP Sri Lanka. “We are extremely grateful for the invaluable support from the Government and people of the United States, which has been critical in enabling WFP to expand its emergency assistance. The funding from USAID will help WFP address humanitarian needs and prevent food insecurity from deteriorating further.” 

The United States has funded nearly one-third of Sri Lanka’s emergency operation requirement, with a contribution of US$20 million (LKR 7.3 billion) in 2022. The funds allow WFP to provide cash, food assistance and value vouchers to food-insecure families, and to support national food and nutrition programmes, including school meals and Thriposha, a fortified blended food product for pregnant and nursing mothers and young children.  

USAID’s long-time support for the Government of Sri Lanka through WFP has helped improve the country’s capacity in disaster risk management, particularly against natural hazards. During the trip, Wilcock also visited an emergency operations centre in Rathnapura to observe how US funding has enabled district-level emergency coordination systems development. Wilcock was given an overviewof how the centre provides timely information to safeguard communities from natural hazards such as floods and landslides. 

WFP, with funding from donors like the US, has reached two million people since June 2022 through its emergency operation, with plans to reach 3.4 million people with food and nutrition assistance in the coming months.

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