AP PHOTOS: Sri Lankans face food crisis amid economic crunch

Dec 22, 2022, 10:46 AM | Updated: Dec 23, 2022, 12:59 am
Rasarathnam Anushiya and her children wait at their rented house in Vavuniya, about 250 kilometres ...

Rasarathnam Anushiya and her children wait at their rented house in Vavuniya, about 250 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

(AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

              The lunch box sent for 8 years old Venura Madushan by his mother is seen in a school at Mahadamana village in Dimbulaga, about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Empty spice containers are seen kept in a kitchen rack in Mahadamana village in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Lalani, a pregnant mother who also have three other children, collects a variant of eggplant fruits to cook, at a nearby woods in Vavuniya, about 250 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Nadeesha Dissanayake, shows the pot with residue of Kan kun leaves she has had to cook for the day in Mahadamana village in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Only available vegetables are seen kept on a kitchen shelf in the house of Lalani, a pregnant mother who also have three children in Vavuniya, about 250 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              A couple cultivate ground nuts in a bank of a water reservoir in Mahadamana village in Dimbulagala about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              A primary student lifts another to reach a vegetable plant cultivated as a part of food security program at their school garden in Mahadamana village in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Two primary students talk after taking their free meals given as apart of a feeding program at the Dalukana Primary School in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Primary students attend their vegetable beds that help cultivate green leaves at their school in Mahadamana village in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day.(AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Primary students queue up to receive a free meal given as apart of a feeding program at the Dalukana Primary School in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Primary students queue up to receive a free meal given as apart of a feeding program at the Dalukana Primary School in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Primary students receive a cup of fresh milk at a Primary School in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis in Dimbulagala primary school children receive a free breakfast, a glass of milk and lunch with help from the education ministry, WFP and a private donor agency. Mothers of students prepare the meals at school with the menu provided by the education ministry. Each meal costs $0.27. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Primary students receive a cup of fresh milk at a Primary School in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis in Dimbulagala primary school children receive a free breakfast, a glass of milk and lunch with help from the education ministry, WFP and a private donor agency. Mothers of students prepare the meals at school with the menu provided by the education ministry. Each meal costs $0.27. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              A parent of Dalukana Primary School boils a pot of fresh milk using a firewood hearth before giving it away to students in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis in Dimbulagala primary school children receive a free breakfast, a glass of milk and lunch with help from the education ministry, WFP and a private donor agency. Mothers of students prepare the meals at school with the menu provided by the education ministry. Each meal costs $0.27. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Venura Madushan shows Amla fruits plucked from a nearby shrub in Mahadamana village in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Sulochana Madushani, right, eats Okara curry from a pot at Mahadamana village in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              A primary student eats a free meal given at the school in Dalukana village in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Steamed rice and okra curry, cooked by Ranawaka Bandarage Malkanthi for her three children lie near the hearth in the kitchen at Mahadamana village in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Kavishka Madushan, right, waters vegetable plants cultivated at the backyard of their house as his in sister Sulochana Madushani bites a sugar cane at Mahadamana village in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Ranawaka Bandarage Malkanthi, center, and her husband Madushanka Kumara, right, watch their children pass time playing carom outside their house in Mahadamana village in Dimbulagala, about 200 kilometres northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Madushika, 8, daughter of Rasarathnam Anushiya eats her dinner at their rented house in Vavuniya, about 250 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Rasarathnam Anushiya gives only two vadei, made from lentils, to her eight years old daughter Madushika in her lunch box before she leaves to school in Vavuniya, about 250 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              Rasarathnam Anushiya and her children wait at their rented house in Vavuniya, about 250 kilometres north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Due to Sri Lanka's current economic crisis families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation. Many families say that they can barely manage one or two meals a day. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka (AP) — Rasarathnam Anushiya once had a mission: She awaited orders to blow herself up as a suicide bomber during Sri Lanka’s civil war. Years on, her struggle now is to feed her three children during the country’s unprecedented economic crisis.

Anushiya, 36, was arrested in 2009 when government troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels, who had sought to create an independent homeland for minority Tamils. She had been a member of the rebels’ dreaded suicide squad known as the Black Tigers, and spent the next five years under government questioning and later at a rehabilitation camp.

She learned dressmaking in the rehabilitation center but was unable to build a profitable business after her release and relied on her husband’s salary from his job at a finance company as she devoted herself to raising their children.

Her husband, like many people, lost his job as a result of Sri Lanka’s current economic crisis. Families across the nation have been forced to cut back on food and other vital items because of shortages of money and high inflation.

For weeks, Anushiya has had to feed her 11-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter only rice and either potato curry or tomato curry. The couple’s 3-month-old baby is still breastfed. While her daughter receives school lunches sponsored by the World Food Program and the Ministry of Education, her son does not because the program only covers children from Grade 1 to 5.

Anushiya also is heavily in debt to micro finance companies and is often hassled by creditors waiting by her home. She can’t afford to pay the rent, and the house owner has asked the family to leave by the end of December.

In another village, Dimbulagala, primary school children receive a free breakfast, a glass of milk and lunch with help from the education ministry, WFP and a private donor agency. Mothers of students prepare the meals at school with a menu provided by the education ministry. Each meal costs $0.27.

School principal Anusha Sirimanne said attendance has improved since the meal program began 20 weeks ago. Before, she said, many children fell asleep during classes and had trouble concentrating, but since the program started, they are more alert and physically active.

“Most would not attend school without the feeding program, and eventually the school would have to close,” she said.

S.M. Madushanka Kumara, the father of three children in Dimbulagala, said his family can only eat once or twice a day since he lost his job at a bakery when its owner decided to close it after prices of ingredients sharply increased.

“We can’t think about balanced diets,” said his wife, Malkanthi. “My 12-year-old son cried, saying his head hurt and he was hungry. I had nothing to offer. Today for lunch I gave him rice with okra curry, which I made from two okras I picked in the back yard.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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AP PHOTOS: Sri Lankans face food crisis amid economic crunch