• Crisis Severity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Key figures

  • 22,156,000 Total population [?]
  • 5,700,000 People in Need [?]



Sri Lanka is currently experiencing an economic crisis and increased levels of poverty as a result of persistent fiscal and current account deficit, mounting debt, and poor governance. The secondary effects of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the country’s economy and people’s livelihood aggravated the situation. In 2021, around 2.4 million people (11% of the total population) were living under the $3.20 international poverty line for lower-middle-income countries: a decline compared to pre-pandemic levels. With the surge in prices of essential items, poor people are likely unable to afford essential items and meet their basic needs. ?

The severe scarcity of foreign currency makes it difficult for the country to import essential goods. This results in shortages of food, fuels, fertilisers, medicines, and health items. The population across the country is suffering from long power cuts caused by the fuel shortages, which are also leading to disruption in public services. ?

An estimated 5.7 million people are in urgent need of assistance; 1.7 million of them are highly vulnerable (including children, persons with disabilities, women-headed households, and combinations of such groups). Food and nutrition security, agriculture and livelihoods, safe water, health, and protection are the topmost humanitarian priorities for the country. ?

The economic crisis has already led to protests and riots, which started in March 2022, resulting in deadly violence and the resignation of the former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on 9 May 2022. ?

Latest Developments


No recent significant humanitarian developments. The crisis is being monitored by our analysis team.



Food: Around five million people in need are food-insecure. Around 70% of households in the country have reduced their food consumption, primarily because of the rising prices of food. Households relying on unskilled casual labour, fishing, or assistance from acquaintances and those without home gardens or livestock are at a higher risk of food insecurity. ?

Nutrition: Rising prices of nutritious foods and disruptions in supply chains and the consequent interruptions in government nutritional support programmes have deteriorated the nutrition situation, increasing the risk of child malnutrition and poor pregnancy outcomes. At least 56,000 children under the age of five suffer from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition and need ready-to-eat therapeutic food. ?

Livelihood: Around 75% of households have their incomes reduced, and more than 85% are adopting at least one coping mechanism. Around 30% of the labour force is involved directly in agricultural activities, making this group very vulnerable to the lack of fertilisers. It is estimated that the rice and maize production has fallen by around 50% and 70% respectively, compared to the previous season. Livestock owners need high-nutrient animal feed and veterinary health kits to mitigate the impacts of the feed shortage. Small-scale fishers, especially in Jaffna and Batticaloa districts, had to significantly reduce fishing because of fuel shortages. Such communities lack alternative livelihood opportunities.  ?

Safe water: Around 90% of the people in the country had access to safe drinking water in 2016. The current crisis has led to a shortage of chemicals used to test and treat water, and power cuts have reduced the operating hours of water treatment facilities. Around 50% of the households in the country do not follow any water treatment methods, and because of fuel shortages, many households have stopped treating the water through boiling. The situation poses a risk of spread of waterborne diseases. ?

Health: Along with essential drug shortages, around 2,700 essential surgical consumables and 250 regular laboratory items are out of stock. The shortages have severely affected the healthcare system, which has been further worsened by the lack of fuel and long power cuts that have curtailed operational capacity. The situation has also been limiting access to lifesaving sexual and reproductive health services. ?

Protection: There has been a rise in domestic violence since the beginning of the economic crisis, with the number of incidents possibly underreported because of the limited means to monitor. Access to shelter facilities and health and legal services for those affected by domestic violence has been limited by lack of resources (especially fuel) to run facilities and services. There is a need for enhanced support for women, children, and marginalised groups, especially for what concerns emergency case management, access to services to report sexual exploitation and abuse, and gender-based violence services. The need for protection assistance is mostly reported in the Nuwara Eliya, Batticaloa, Moneragala, and Mullaitivu districts. ?