Photos: War-ravaged Sri Lankan Tamils suffer amid economic crisis | Tamils News

Under the blazing sun, a 44-year-old Tamil man tending a rented peanut field in Sri Lanka, can only move with his hands because an air strike in 2009 took both his legs and left his arms. His left is injured.

Singaram Soosaiyamutthu said: “I have more difficulty than a daily wage earner, striking his spade into the earth in his daily struggle to beat inflation that has kept many necessities out of reach. .

The 2009 air raid was during the final stages of a 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fighting for an independent Tamil state.

Much of the Tamil population of this northern coastal district of Mullaitivu was ravaged by the last onslaught of the war, and today’s economic crisis has come as a second blow.

He said, many people go to work every day to earn a living, but he cannot.

“If I go to work every day, no one will hire me, and we can’t go to work like this, right?” he asks.

He worked as a fisherman before the economic crisis – Sri Lanka’s worst in 70 years – ran out of fuel supplies, forcing him to turn to peanut farming for money.

“Even when we have to control our own hunger, we can’t tell our kids, ‘Look kid, here’s something to eat, now just go to sleep,’ okay?” he say.

His family is among the 6.2 million Sri Lankans estimated to be food insecure by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization as food inflation hit 93.7% last month.

Sri Lanka’s financial crisis, the result of economic mismanagement and the coronavirus pandemic, has destroyed the tourism industry, a major revenue generator.

For months, a population of 22 million has been struggling with power cuts, rampant inflation, a plummeting rupee and a shortage of foreign exchange reserves that have made paying for imports of food, fuel and medicine difficult. difficult.

Mullaitivu is Sri Lanka’s second poorest district, with 58% of households living in poverty, a Save the Children survey found in June, and this has the largest number of those living in poverty. say they lost all their income due to the crisis, about a quarter.

Nationally, 31% of adults polled said that, like Soosaiyamutthu, they cut back on food to feed their children.

“With this economic crisis, they are being pushed from worse to worse,” said Soma Somanathan, founder of the charity Tears of Vanni, which helps people in the region.

“They are really being pushed back to the stage where they were directly after the war,” added Somanathan, who is based in Sydney.

Sentheepan Kalachelvi, who was disabled by shelling after being displaced in the final months of the war, said the adults in her family were sometimes hungry to make sure the children had enough to eat and that she could barely eat. shower every other day due to lack of fuel.

“Poor people are still being pushed down into the society around here,” said the 38-year-old housewife, who has a prosthetic leg that replaces her left leg and the root of her right arm.

Kalachelvi, widowed and unable to work because of her disability, depends on her mother’s daily labor and receives 5,000 rupees ($14) a month from Tears of Vanni.

The UN refugee agency estimated in 2010 that the final stages of the civil war had displaced some 300,000 Tamils ​​like Kalachelvi from their homes.

Neil Hapuhinne, Secretary of the Ministry of Social Empowerment, said Sri Lanka is expanding a welfare effort covering 4 million homes to include those hardest hit by the crisis, and has a plan in place. monthly cash transfers to another 600,000 people.

“The most deserving will be identified and helped,” Hapuhinne added.

This year, 51.3 billion rupees ($146 million) has been disbursed to 3.2 million households.

A $200 million loan from the Asian Development Bank will also alleviate the food crisis, while the government has turned to the World Bank and UN agencies.

At dusk, Soosaiyamutthu released his spade. Two more months until he can tell if his peanut harvest has been successful.

“If the price were to drop, we wouldn’t have to struggle as much,” he said.

“Now, even 10 percent OK is a struggle. That’s what expensive things are.”

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