Malnutrition leading to Weak, Unhealthy Future

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The descendants of the legendary Dasa Maha Yodayo (The Ten Giant Warriors), who lived in Sri Lanka during the reign of King Kavantissa, are not accustomed to ‘Hunger’. However, due to the country’s worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948, more than 60 per cent of Sri Lankans cut back on their dietary intake.

Lack of sufficient fertiliser for farming, a scarcity of seeds, a lack of fuel for agricultural equipment, a lack of pesticides, animal damage to crops and challenges in marketing the surplus harvest have all contributed to food shortages and a rise in the cost of living, which is restricting people’s access to wholesome, reasonably priced meals.

However, the result of all of this will be malnutrition and the birth of a future generation that is weak and unhealthy. Dr. Suren Batagoda, the President’s adviser on national food security, accused State authorities of causing the food crisis that has affected the entire country and led to a 60 per cent decrease in food consumption.

He charged that the State officials were not taking part in the effort to solve the food crisis.

However, over the past two years, a number of leaders have made verbal proposals to address the nation’s food crisis. Newly elected MPs have also been debating how to handle the problem, which is escalating on a daily basis. Aside from the numerous oral and written recommendations to end the hunger, no significant steps were taken that could actually aid the suffering community, which includes low-income families.

A day after warning of an impending food catastrophe, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dismissed Prof. Uditha Jayasinghe, a prominent bureaucrat in charge of the important agriculture sector. Instead of testing out his prognosis, the former President fired him without providing an official justification for Jayasinghe’s predictions of a coming food catastrophe.

But afterwards, many experts admitted that a food crisis was developing, leading Rajapaksa’s Cabinet to form an eight-member subcommittee on cost of living, led by Rajapaksa, in July 2022.

In this setting, a lot of community kitchens stood up despite obstacles placed across the nation by non-profit organisations targeting the poor, setting an example for the leaders and truly doing what they preach.

However, on 13 September, incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe, district secretaries, and divisional secretaries took the initial step in laying out the strategy for a programme named Community Kitchen that would provide food for the hungry. The execution of the Multi-sector Combined Mechanism to ensure food security at the rural level, the challenges that occur in the implementation of the mechanism, and remedies for them were reviewed during this discussion led by Dr. Batagoda.

Accordingly, it is planned to fortify family structures and collect information to put cultivating ideas into practice in the forthcoming season. If this policy is carried out consistently, they confirmed there would not be a food scarcity for the citizens of the nation.

Given that we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel with this programme, we are just going deeper. Due to debt default by Sri Lanka, it is now unable to import basic goods including fuel, medicine, and domestic gas. People started using firewood to cook instead, but it is also now scarce in Colombo.

However, the Government is appointing more than 30 State Ministers and providing them with official vehicles that use fuel that is now in short supply in the nation. The State Ministers are provided with vehicles while people struggle to provide food for the children.

Because of the high cost of rice and the lack of wheat flour, plantation workers are struggling to feed their families.

It is fine to take actions late than never. The Government still has time to come up with the answers to the issues that will enable the public to raise food consumption by 60 per cent and restore it to its pre-recession levels.

People who have been given the public’s mandate should concentrate on feeding the schoolchildren, the plantation community, and low-income families rather than making recommendations for what should be done. The risk of creating room for a sick, weak population in the future increases as families and children obtain less nutrition.

We have the genetic capacity to perform remarkable feats since we are descended from a great history. Because of the failure of the short-sighted, obstinate leaders, Sri Lanka’s future should not be given to a sick, weak community.