Sri Lanka has witnessed a striking increase in both the frequency and intensity of natural disasters over the last few decades. Natural disasters have caused human, physical, financial and environmental losses and made substantial impacts on the economy of Sri Lanka. The impacts of natural disasters are not homogeneous across various segments of the society. The distribution of impacts depends on the degree of physical vulnerability of a particular region to natural disasters and the socio-economic vulnerability. The poor, especially those who are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, such as farmers and fishermen are highly vulnerable to the negative impacts of natural disasters. Given the significant economic costs of natural disasters, disaster management issues have received high policy priority. Apart from reducing the physical vulnerability of the population, social protection systems do have an important complementary role in minimizing the effects of natural disasters. Sri Lanka is well-known to have an extensive social protection system. However, the degree to which the present system provides protection against natural disasters remains unexplored. Thus, the present study assesses the degree of protection provided by the present social protection system in Sri Lanka against natural disasters, identifies gaps in doing so, and thereby suggests suitable recommendations to strengthen the system.
The study reveals that the present social protection system in Sri Lanka is not adequate to address the socio-economic vulnerability due to external shocks created by natural disasters. All the disaster-related socio-economic measures in place are highly skewed towards immediate relief, whereas long-term economic well-being of the disaster vulnerable groups has received minor attention. The disaster insurance schemes are also not properly developed and the existing crop insurance schemes show a low coverage. Microfinance services also do not adequately respond to the needs of the disaster vulnerable groups. The study recommends the need for making reforms in the existing programmes, thereby to suggest better protection against natural disasters without introducing new measures and increasing the complexity of the system.