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#FacesofClimateChange: Sri Lanka - Jesuthasan and Sutharsiny’s story

21 Sep 2019

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Husband and wife, Jesuthasan and Sutharsiny Delance, live in a two-room brick house with their two children in Vavuniya district in north central Sri Lanka. They have four acres of rice paddy fields, as well as other fields where they grow spices and sesame. But in recent years they have struggled to harvest anything as the district has struggled with chronic drought.

This year the drought is even more severe in the past says Jesuthasan. “Every year we used to be able to easily grow our crops but now the situation has changed and we are now in debt. Everyone here is in the same situation.”

Across Sri Lanka climate change has led to hotter temperatures and erratic rainfall, posing a severe threat to farmers.

Just nine months ago the couple invested in a new well to irrigate their rice paddy but the well has already dried up. They also built another well for their sesame fields but have no way to pump the water.

Many farmers here face the same problem.

“We are facing huge difficulties,” says Jesuthasan. “Because there has been no rain, we will not be able to cultivate this harvest. We’ll have to wait for the next harvest in October.”

With agriculture stagnating, Jesuthasan now struggles to get laboring jobs.?“We have already borrowed money to cultivate our land, and now we have no way to pay it back,” he says.

The family has been reduced to regularly only eating one meal a day, in the evening. “Whatever food we have, we give to the children,” said Sutharsiny. “There are other people in our community who do not even have the means to eat every day.”

As a result, their children have increasing health problems. Their son was recently hospitalized for a respiratory illness.

Living in growing debt, with seemingly no way out, the couple have dwindling hopes that they can turn their situation around anytime soon.

?“We urgently need access to water to cultivate our crops, we need food and we need financial assistance because we are in so much debt,” says Jesuthasan ruefully. “Everyone in this village is the same situation. Everyone needs help.”

PHOTOS: Tony Burke OCHA