“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves.” Matthew 14:19.
How great is the act of sharing a meal with the poor and marginalized! Jesus shared a meal with five thousand people who followed him and in this miraculous act, we must seek Jesus’s truth of selflessness. This is the mission Caritas Sri Lanka has endeavored upon as an adventure towards fighting the hunger crisis that has been devastating the country today.
Presently, the food crisis in Sri Lanka is a global phenomenon. Hunger and malnutrition are devastating families, sick people, elderly and children. Economic and political unrest undoubtedly has brought hardships and pain to many people. The suffering of the marginalized and poor is too great to fathom. We know that this economic crisis will have knock-on effects throughout Sri Lanka at a time when the pandemic has already quarried inequalities and damaged social cohesion.
Caritas Sri Lanka stands in solidarity with all families of the most vulnerable groups and works in the hardest-to-reach regional places to ensure the most vulnerable get the nutritious food they need. As a move towards alleviating hunger, Caritas has initiated the “Feeding Program” since June 2022. Caritas diocesan centers are working closely with the government officials and local religious leaders who have thorough knowledge about the vulnerable families living in extreme poverty.
The objective of this project is to save lives and prevent capricious human actions such as suicide, loss of life by drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other actions driven by extreme hunger and desperation. Under this programme, poor and vulnerable families are selected from all 25 districts. At present, 200 families from each district, which totals to 5,000 families throughout the island are selected and given food packs. Each diocesan center has decided on the type of essential food items that is being distributed such as rice, sugar, lentils, dry fish, flour, green gram, soya meat, tin fish, and spices worth 5,000 rupees per family. The selection criteria of the beneficiaries focuses on the below elements.
- Families living below the poverty line.
- Families with disable members.
- Extended families with higher number of dependents.
- Families who have lost employments, and have no income.
- Single parent families.
Furthermore, a medical assistance programme has also been introduced. Those who are worst affected by the economic crisis and who are suffering with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases, chronic renal disease and cancers will benefit from this programme. These beneficiaries will be given financial assistance of Rs 5,000 per family and if needed, further assistance provided depending on a case by case assessment of the severity of illness.
In addition to the above, education support also provided to the students from vulnerable families in order to address the emerging problems of school going children’s needs and wants. This will give the students an opportunity to attain his or her fullest potential in life which will be fruitful to society in the long-term. In fact, we are sure that this financial support in terms of stationery items, school fees, tuition fees and other education related expenses will keep the children off the streets and direct their thoughts, words, and actions in a positive manner. Support will be provided
If necessary, psychosocial support will also be arranged by the “befriending programme” of Caritas Sri Lanka. Befrienders are qualified counselors who will be able to support the most psychologically distressed communities who were impacted by the economic crisis. The primary aim of all psychosocial support programs is to place and maintain children and adults in stable and supportive family environments. These programs will support and addresses poor community member’s emotional, social, mental and spiritual needs – all essential elements of positive human development.
Caritas Sri Lanka implement the above emergency assistance programme with the support of our Caritas Partners to enhance responsiveness among the poorest section of the society in terms of their food security and building resilience capabilities.