A family’s struggle with climate change
28-year-old Sampath and his wife Asela lives in Welikanda, Sri Lanka. Their three-year-old son, Heshan is underweight and severely malnourished.
Sampath did not receive a formal education and works as a daily wage labourer. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, work opportunities reduced drastically and he struggled to provide for his family.
In a community where farming is the main industry, the prolonged drought due to climate change continues to put Sampath out of work for long periods at a time. This affects Heshan’s health, as his parents cannot afford to feed him nutritious food, and buy his milk powder and vitamins.
Asela tries her best to feed Heshan but with the situation they face, it poses a great challenge. The family has a small home garden where they can sometimes get a meal or two out of it, but the water shortage due to the drought limits their harvest.
Clean water is also a major issue for the family. As they cannot afford to purchase clean water from the water selling station, they have no choice but to drink from the lake. Fetching water from the lake is also a perilous 2km journey by foot, especially during the night when elephants roam free. However, out of necessity, Sampath will take the risk and brave the journey.
Although Asela is aware that the unclean water from the lake contains waterborne diseases and may cause illnesses, she and Sampath will still use it. As for young Heshan, his father will borrow money from their neighbours to purchase some clean water but it is often a temporary solution as they struggle to pay their neighbours back.
Climate change has not only affected the family’s livelihood and food security, but their safety too. The drought has drove wildlife like elephants into their village, destroying homes and killing people, while snakes have entered homes during the rainy season and floods.
Despite their struggles, Asela’s tenacity to continue providing for Heshan is admirable. She seeks to be actively involved in World Vision’s work in building their community and hopes to improve her parenting knowledge so that she can support Heshan. Her only desire now is to see Heshan become a healthy and well-nourished boy.