A UN team, led by the Resident Coordinator in Colombo, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy has appealed to international donors for more than $47 million in “life-saving assistance” to 1.7 million people in a country with a population of over 22 million.
This stands in contrast to the staggering $5.0 billion the government is seeking for the island’s economic survival during the next six months—primarily for food, fuel and fertilizer.
Last month, the UN announced that with a $1.5 million donation from the Government of Japan, the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF will procure medicines for over 1.2 million people, among them 53,000 pregnant mothers and nearly 122,000 children with immediate medical needs. In addition, Australia has made available the equivalent of nearly $5 million for food security, essential medicines for women’s health.
Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves have hit a low of $1.9 billion, equivalent to funds that could finance less than one month’s imports while its debt service repayments amount to about $6.9 billion. Last month, Sri Lanka defaulted on its debt repayments for the first time in history. Once called the ‘Granary of the East’, Sri Lanka is also considering tapping the SAARC Food Bank – from the buffer stocks of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The country is not only financially bankrupt, it is facing a famine in a few months.