Photos: Soup kitchens in crisis-stricken Sri Lanka feed the poor


With no fuel and no money for food, HG Indrani and her family of nine trudged for an hour to a communal kitchen in Colombo, hoping to find a simple vegetarian meal.

Rampant food inflation and chronic shortages of cooking gas and petrol turn everyday life into a struggle for millions of people amid Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.

“There’s no income,” said Indrani, one of hundreds queuing in the afternoon sun at a makeshift church kitchen. “There is usually no food. We have suffered a lot.”

Two dozen volunteers cook rice, cut onions and scrape coconut flesh as they cook over an open fire due to the lack of gas in the flat roof space of the church near the Sri Lankan parliament.

“The need is so great,” said Akila Alles, the chief operating officer of the Bethany Christian Life Center, which has set up kitchens in 12 of its churches since June and has served food to about 1,500 people.

“Inflation is so high that people cannot afford to eat. Without gas people cannot cook and without transport people cannot work.”

Conditions are so dire, according to the World Food Programme, that more than five million Sri Lankans have reported being forced to skip meals.

Months of anti-government protests that peaked this month after thousands of government buildings stormed and brought down former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa have crossed religious and ethnic boundaries across the diverse Indian Ocean.

Catholic nuns and Buddhist monks are regularly seen at protests, and communities have worked together to meet growing humanitarian needs.

Donations have come from China and Vietnam, with a Buddhist monk delivering a large donation of rice to the church.

“Sometimes people who come here have nothing at all,” said a volunteer cook, KD Irani, stirring a cauldron of dal or lentils.

“I am 66, but I have never experienced such a crisis in my life. We do this out of love for the people.”

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