The Ministry of Women and Children says it is seeking private funding to feed several hundred thousand children emaciated by inadequate nutrition.
The failed state, grappling with Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence, was unable to sustain welfare.
Minister Neil Bandara Hapuhinne told reporters in Colombo: “When the Covid pandemic was at its peak, the problem was serious, but now with the economic crisis the situation is much worse.
Hapuhinne said they counted 127,000 malnourished children out of 570,000 girls and boys under the age of five as of mid-2021.
Since then, he estimates that the numbers have multiplied with the full impact of runaway inflation and severe shortages of food and other essentials.
He said the number of people receiving direct state aid had almost doubled in the past year, with more than 90% of the population now relying on government financial aid.
That’s about 1.6 million government employees, Hapuhinne said.
Inflation in Sri Lanka was officially measured at 60.8% in July, but private economists say it is more than 100% and second only to Zimbabwe.
UNICEF has also launched an appeal for funding claiming that children in Sri Lanka have been marginally affected by the severe economic crisis.
The country ran out of foreign exchange to finance essential imports late last year, and Colombo defaulted on $51 billion in mid-April.
Under new President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the government is currently negotiating a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.
The country’s 22 million people suffer from daily long power cuts, long queues for fuel and shortages of food and basic medicine in a country that once had the best social indicators in South Asia. .