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Oru Paanai - Feeding

The Scarcity of Food

Escalating food prices and relative scarcity have led to ongoing food shortage. The problem in the north has been caused by the restrictions to fishing and agriculture by the maintenance of high security zones covering much of the coastline and vast areas of fertile land. The lack of rainfall in this arid zone has also accentuated the problem.

Transport of food items from the south and the transport of agricultural produce from the north to other markets in the rest of the country is expensive due to the high fuel costs, thus contributing to further stagnation of the economy of the north.

Food programme - Oct 2020The children and the elderly living in the north are now facing hunger and malnutrition, even starvation. Children are growing up with poor weight and stature. Infants fall off the weight centile charts maintained by the Child Health Workers.

Many of the elderly are destitute and dependent on the benevolence of temples and alms from the public. The state handouts of a few hundred rupees per month and rations of rice, lentils, flour and sugar barely last even a week.

Oru Paanai Schools Programme

Oru  Paanai’s initial aim was to augment the midday meal programme funded by the World Food Program (WFP). The WFP met the cost of rice and lentils only. OP assisted with the purchase of vegetables and condiments, as well as other requirements like firewood for the cooking. The schools in these impoverished areas welcomed the financial assistance provided by OP, which was always delivered in a timely and reliable fashion. From small beginnings, this OP Programme grew to the point where some 44,000 children in 311 schools were being helped by 2017. The heads of schools and education department officials were greatly appreciative of OP’s help, school attendance improved and the children were doing better in their studies. All in all, we felt it was a useful helping hand that  OP had extended to the people in the north.

However, after nearly ten years of this programme, OP had to end its involvement when the WFP withdrew from Sri Lanka in December 2017. The Government of Sri Lanka took over the feeding programme, and now provides a midday meal to the children on similar lines to that in the rest of the country.

OP and Sathu Maa provision

From 2014, OP has been assisting in the provision of Sathu Maa, a nutritional supplement, to undernourished children in some of the islands in the Jaffna peninsula. This programme is still ongoing and is an integral part of OP’s activities.

OP and the elderly

When OP’s schools programme ended in 2018, it changed its focus to concentrate on helping the destitute elderly, another group in sore need of assistance. Starting from helping 100 elders, who were carefully chosen with the help of local social services, OP currently provides dry rations to 500 elders in 11 centres in the north, 100 elders in 2 centres in Batticaloa and 100 elders in 2 centres in the plantation areas. In addition to being given dry rations to last 4 weeks at a time, the elderly are also given a cooked hot meal - an annathanam - wherever possible. This dry rations / annathanam programme has proved very successful, and can be extended to more areas, funding permitting.

Oru Paanai - feeding the hungry in Sri Lanka
Charity no: 1136376

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