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Northern development faces $200m shortfall

One in two people in Sri Lanka's Northern Province is in debt and finding it difficult to buy food, a recent WFP survey found
(Amantha Perera/IRIN)

The Joint Plan for Assistance (JPA) for Sri Lanka's war-torn Northern Province is facing a US$200 million shortfall, according to the UN.

Of the JPA's $289 million appeal, only $76.5 million, or 26 percent, has been received, the latest Joint Humanitarian and Early Recovery Update released on 27 September states. 

According to a mid-year assessment of the plan, only 13 percent of humanitarian, 32 percent of urgent early recovery and 16 percent of early recovery requirements had been met.

UN officials indicated it was highly unlikely the full appeal would be met this year. Further constraints were avoided in May when Valerie Amos, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, released $4.9 million to the priority sectors: food security, agriculture, protection, shelter, water and sanitation, nutrition and health.

There are concerns that even though food security was among the sectors that received the highest rate of funding by mid-year - 51 percent of the total requirement of $55 million - there are shortfalls. "Over 60 percent of households in the Northern Province are food-insecure, and lack the income generation and food-production capacity to secure basic needs," the UN World Food Programme (WFP) told IRIN.

A recent WFP survey also revealed that half the 1.1 million people in the Northern Province were indebted, owing on average six months' income, much of it incurred in buying food.

A survey conducted in June by the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), a French NGO working in the north, found more than 80 percent of households taking part in cash for work programmes spent between 50 and 90 percent of their meagre income on food.

The WFP office, whose emergency food assistance is funded through the JPA, said it had not limited or suspended food distribution due to funding constraints and that food intake in the province was still acceptable - albeit deteriorating.

Agencies working in the Northern Province confirmed that with few income-generating options, many of the returnees to the former conflict zone could not afford to buy food.

"The reality is that there is food, but it is very expensive, people don't have the income to buy it," said Andre Krummacher, ACTED country director for Sri Lanka. He said the impact of tight budgets and insufficient job opportunities was becoming apparent: "Soon we will see more unless the tide changes," he said.

Why the funding gap?

The latest WFP assessment found that half the households in the Northern Province lived on less than $1 a day. However, the World Bank reclassified Sri Lanka in late 2010 as a middle-income country and some analysts blame this for the funding shortfall.

"People ask why they should help a middle-income country; what they fail to see is that there are large pockets of poverty here," Krummacher said.

Others have blamed the international focus on alleged war crimes committed during the last phase of Sri Lanka's war and moves to initiate an international investigation as distracting donors.

"There has been so much attention on this that donors seem to have lost sight of the conditions in the former war area," Jagath Abeysinghe, president of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, said.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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