The “Don Bosco Development Center – DBCR” of Dungalpitiya, a municipality in the city of Negombo, Sri Lanka, recently received 2,640 boxes of rice to distribute to its beneficiaries, thanks to the collaboration between “Salesian Missions”, the Salesian Mission Office of New Rochelle, and “Rise Against Hunger”, an international humanitarian organization that provides food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable. Overall, over 6,000 people have benefited from this solidarity intervention, both people who frequent the Salesian centers and members of the communities close to them.
Sri Lanka is currently facing a food shortage due to two consecutive seasons of poor harvests. Production has fallen by 50% and food grain imports are also reduced due to foreign exchange constraints. According to a September 2022 joint report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP), an estimated 6.3 million people – 30% of the population – are are currently facing a situation of moderate or severe food insecurity.
“We are happy to collaborate with the NGO ‘Rise Against Hunger’ to send rice-based meals to help address these serious food shortages – declared Fr Timothy Ploch, Interim Head of Salesian Missions -. The Salesians offer feeding programs in their schools and centers, which also extend to the community at large, so that people can have adequate nourishment, which in turn ensures that they can go to school or work and helps those who are most in difficulty in the community.”
The Salesians have been present in Sri Lanka since 1956 and in 1963 they opened their first technical institute. Since then they have founded 17 others across the country, as well as youth centers and other homes, initiatives and programs serving young people in difficulty.
Sri Lanka has suffered a long civil war, which ended in 2009, has been hit by two tsunamis in the last 13 years and by a dengue epidemic. The harshest situation is experienced in rural areas, where, according to the World Bank, 90% of poverty is concentrated. Over 40% of the rural poor are small farmers, and agricultural production is often hampered by low levels of investment due to a lack of adequate services and technologies. Lack of irrigation systems, as well as other infrastructure, roads, electricity, and communication channels, are other emerging problems, in a country where seven out of 10 people do not have access to electricity, almost half of the population does not have access to drinking water, and child malnutrition is widespread.