asian development bankThe Asian Development Bank (ADB), which was established in 1966, attempts to alleviate poverty in Asia by funding numerous welfare projects in the region. Many Asian countries are members of ADB, which provides them with loans and monetary assistance, as well as providing general technical help with different projects. ADB aims to achieve “a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.” Here are four countries that ADB has benefited positively.

4 Countries the Asian Development Bank Has Helped

  1. China: The People’s Republic of China is a country that has experienced uneven development in the past century. Major cities are urbanized, while rural areas remain in extreme poverty. ADB has funded and overseen numerous projects to attempt to lift these areas out of poverty and improve the standard of living in the country. One project in Yunnan, for example, pays and trains women to maintain around 5,000 kilometers of rural roads. This offers economic opportunities to rural women while facilitating more transportation between rural towns. Another project funded the purchase of 1,860 clean buses to combat China’s pollution problem.
  2. Cambodia: While Cambodia has undergone positive development in recent years, poverty still exists in the country, and many of its residents live in adverse conditions. In 2017, for example, 21% of the Cambodian population did not have access to clean water. The Asian Development Bank has encouraged sustainable development in Cambodia through many large-scale projects. In 2003, the bank allotted $15.6 million to Cambodia as part of a project to attract tourists and benefit local economies. More recently, ADB approved a loan of $250 million to support Cambodia’s economy through the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Thailand: In recent years, poverty has unfortunately increased in Thailand, with the poverty rate growing from 7.8% in 2015 to 9.8% in 2018. According to the World Bank, this has been due to several “economic and environmental challenges,” particularly because individual Thai households are highly susceptible to variable economic conditions. Projects by ADB attempt to combat this—one 2017 program introduced around 500 farmers to the organic farming market. This connected them to a greater, more profitable market in order to attain a self-sufficient income. In 2012, a solar power plant funded by ADB was also completed, which generated enough power to provide clean electricity to 70,000 households. The plant also helps to keep greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere.
  4. Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is a relatively small country, with a population of around 22 million. In 2016, 4.1% of the population was below the national poverty line. ADB has mainly funded rural development projects in Sri Lanka but has also focused on social justice and creating better living conditions for Sri Lankan residents. From 2000 to 2018, ADB helped connect more than 200,000 households to electricity and built or upgraded just under 4,000 kilometers of roads. The Asian Development Bank has also funded support for around one million residents affected by the Sri Lankan Civil War, which lasted from 1983 to 2009.

Since its conception, ADB has made incredible progress in fighting poverty and assisting development in Asia. In 2019 alone, ADB committed $21.64 billion in loans, grants and other investments to various countries and provided $237 million in technical assistance. Still, much poverty remains to be fought—while Asian countries have experienced massive development in the 21st century, many rural areas have been left behind. Poverty remains a pervasive issue in Asia. The Asian Development Bank has changed the lives of many Asian residents, but much remains to be done.

– Maggie Sun
Photo: Flickr

Tea Farming in Sri LankaSri Lanka is a small island off the southeastern coast of India. The country is home to around 22 million people and to a long and vibrant history. Sri Lanka has gone from an early Buddhist settlement to a colony under the control of major European powers to, finally, its own independent republic in 1972. Throughout its secular history, tea farming in Sri Lanka has remained a constant activity and has played a massive role in the development of culture on the island.

Sri Lankan tea gained global prevalence after British colonial rulers transformed tea agriculture into a plantation-style economic powerhouse. With the economic success brought on by the explosion of tea farming in the country, the British began pushing peasants and subsistence farmers into producing tea to capitalize on the global interest in the beverage.

Tea Farming in Modern Sri Lanka

Plantation-style agriculture still makes up a notable volume of Sri Lanka’s economy, and tea is the “preeminent crop of the plantation sector” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The global demand for tea has not diminished in modern times and seemingly neither has Sri Lanka’s role in providing it. The country exports hundreds of millions of kilograms of tea every year. For example, from January 2020 to May 2020 Sri Lanka exported over 100 million kilograms of tea to its trading partners.

Therefore, much of the country’s agricultural workforce is devoted to tea farming. More specifically, two million Sri Lankan farmers rely on tea farming and tea production to provide for their families and households. With tea ingrained in so much of Sri Lanka’s culture and economy, modern solutions need to be embraced to soothe the working conditions of the many poor farmers who work to meet the global demand for tea.

How Microsoft is Improving Tea Farming in Sri Lanka

To do so, Sri Lanka has turned to technology and confided in companies to assist the government in finding these solutions. For Sri Lanka specifically, Microsoft has been a superb partner in this goal.

One broad way Microsoft has helped is via a survey conducted with local business leaders to determine if they have an interest in integrating artificial intelligence (or “AI”) as a business solution. The survey discovered that 80% of those business leaders surveyed found AI to be essential to maintain their business’s competitiveness. Acknowledging this, Microsoft is investing millions of dollars into enhancing tech skills for businesses in Sri Lanka, as well as starting programs and providing hardware to assist tech startups rising in the nation.

The implications of this initiative are massive. Considering the vital status of tea farming to Sri Lanka’s culture and economy, Microsoft’s assistance in pushing more technology into businesses can lead to more efficient farming. As a result, there will be more valuable data available to increase crop yields and more companies will engage in tea farming as their enterprise of choice. The introduction of these tools can also lead to an improvement in the lives of millions of tea farmers in Sri Lanka in both safety and economic terms.

The Colombo Tea Auction

Such efforts have already begun to take hold in Sri Lanka. One major example of Microsoft’s valuable assistance to tea farming in Sri Lanka can be found in the Colombo Tea Auction. The Colombo Tea Auction is a weekly event that takes place in the nation’s capital involving the sale and export of tea from farmers. The event is vital to the tea farming community’s success as it is a major method for how the country’s tea is prepped and sold for export around the world.

However, the auction tends to involve a lot of close-quarters contact between attendees; a reality that has proven impossible given the current global COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, with the help of Microsoft’s Azure team and their Azure cloud and AI products, a local tech company was able to develop an e-commerce platform that allowed sellers and buyers to trade tea from the safety of their own homes. This was developed with extreme speed, and it allowed the tea economy (and two million poor tea farmers) to avoid economic disaster and flourish amongst a dangerous pandemic.

Now that the benefits are starting to become more tangible, and economic success is within reach for Sri Lanka’s farmers, technology may become more and more prevalent in the Sri Lankan tea industry. With the success of the Colombo Tea Auction’s move to digital commerce, along with Microsoft’s continued efforts to support Sri Lanka’s growth in tech and economic fulfillment, the world may see a better-equipped, safer and more successful Sri Lanka in the near future, perhaps beginning with their high-quality tea.

– Domenic Scalora
Photo: Flickr

 

Hunger in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has experienced notable progress in several developmental areas. The country has achieved improvements to primary education, a reduction in childbirth rate and decreasing poverty levels. However, food insecurity remains a consistent problem. Hunger in Sri Lanka is a major obstacle to the nation’s socio-economic development. According to the
2019 Global Hunger Index, Sri Lanka scores 17.1, ranking 66 among 117 qualifying countries.

The Numbers

According to a UN report, more than 800 million people worldwide were estimated to be chronically undernourished as of 2017. Over 90 million children under five are underweight. Sri Lanka ranked poorly on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) and global food security index, two major indicators of food security in any country. Food and Agriculture Organization report from 2014 to 2016 found an average calorie deficit in Sri Lanka of 192 kcal per capita per day. In South Asia, only Afghanistan (36.6%) and Pakistan (30.5%) had higher rates of food inadequacy.

A study by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) revealed that more than 13% of minors in Sri Lanka were malnourished between the period of 2006-2010. The survey found that 23% of children between six and 59 months of age were stunted, 18% wasted and 29% underweight.

AHRC also found that remote and underdeveloped areas suffer more from hunger than larger cities. Although Sri Lanka has moderate percentages of food accessibility (54.5%), availability (52.8%), quality and safety (49.5 %), it is still struggling to achieve the United Nation’s goal for zero hunger by 2030.

Causes of Persistent Hunger

A food-insecure family lacks access to an optimum quantity of affordable and nutritious food. The immediate and obvious impact of food insecurity can be observed in physical health. Children struggle to concentrate in school and adults find it hard to perform well in their job. The household hunger scale (HHS) measures food insecurity in Sri Lanka on the basis of three factors: lacking access to food, sleeping hungry because of not having enough to eat and household members spending the whole day and night without eating anything.

There are several drivers behind hunger in Sri Lanka. Stagnant growth in crops in recent years has created a shortage of essential food. As the population continues to grow, this problem worsens. Furthermore, 35% of crops end up being wasted, never reaching hungry people. Rising food prices are also a concern in Sri Lanka. Changes in import duties and non-tariff barriers have caused increases in food prices as well.

Unemployment is also a major factor behind food insecurity and hunger in Sri Lanka. Many families have one or more members unemployed. One report shows that around 30% of the households depend on casual wage labor for their livelihood and food security. Around 90% percent of households in the city of Jaffna and 75% in the Vavuniya District were unemployed around 2012.

Initiatives to Address Hunger

Agriculture is one of the key ways to combat hunger and malnutrition. Different policies are intended to help fulfill Sri Lanka’s food requirement, including the National Climate Change Policy and the National Adaptation Plan for Climate Change Impact. A climate-smart agriculture system is working on increasing climate-resilient crops, rainwater harvesting, crop diversification and use of technology.

Under the National Nutrition Policy, every Sri Lankan citizen has the right to access adequate and appropriate food — irrespective of geographical location or socio-economic status. In addition to these efforts, global agencies like the World Food Program are working to combat hunger in Sri Lanka. UNICEF is also working to improve child and maternal nutrition.

Additional Ways to Combat Hunger

Socially vulnerable groups — like the elderly or female-headed families — are more prone to food insecurity. Sri Lanka’s government and other organizations should supply food vouchers to these vulnerable groups.

Because livestock production in Sri Lanka offers vast opportunity, the government should also encourage training and veterinary services to promote livestock production. In addition to this, privatizing the fish industry could help generate employment.

 

Moving forward, the government and other humanitarian organizations need to make reducing hunger in Sri Lanka a priority. Policies like the ones listed above are crucial for reaching the U.N.’s goal of zero hunger.

– Anuja Kumari
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a tropical island nation near the Indian Ocean with a population of approximately 21 million. A 30-year civil war that ended in 2009 tore the country apart. Meanwhile, it experiences frequent natural disasters such as mass flooding, monsoons and landslides. Despite these barriers, Sri Lanka has been making massive strides towards improving healthcare for its citizens. For the past 50 years, the country has shown impressive positive trends in comparison to its peers in South Asia. Here are eight facts about healthcare in Sri Lanka.

8 Facts About Healthcare in Sri Lanka

  1. Sri Lanka’s “pro-poor” health system covers all Sri Lankans. The government enacted the Free Health policy in 1951. The public healthcare system is state-funded and its facilities are accessible to all citizens. The system covers approximately 50% of outpatient services and 90% of inpatient services. Preventative services are free.
  2. Sri Lanka has the lowest maternal mortality rate in South Asia. The country made massive strides toward improving maternal and child health through the extensive use of professional midwives. In 2014, a skilled health profession attended 99.95% of births. Maternal mortality rates have dropped drastically from 56 deaths out of 100,000 live births in 2000 to 36 deaths out of 100,000 live births in 2017.
  3. Sri Lanka’s health ministry has established a strong surveillance system to monitor intractable diseases. The country is diligent in educating healthcare providers and the general public. Widespread accessibility to clinics and hospitals that provide readily available diagnostic testing and treatments has allowed the country to successfully eliminate diseases such as polio, measles and malaria. The country also eradicated vertical transmission of syphilis and HIV in 2019.
  4. The World Health Organization recommends that countries have a ratio of 2.5 health professionals to 1,000 patients. Although Sri Lanka has met this recommendation with one doctor and two nurses per 1,000 patients, the country has an extreme shortage of trained specialists like dentists, cardiologists and oncologists. The workforce distribution is uneven with a concentration of professionals in urban areas leaving rural hospitals understaffed.
  5. The government secures medication, but not enough to meet patient needs. The State Pharmaceutical Corporation purchases medication in bulk. Because most medications are free for patients, supply often experiences strain. The government prioritizes medications deemed essential while other medications that treat non-contagious chronic diseases are consistently in limited supply.
  6. Non-communicable chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases are on the rise. These chronic diseases become more prevalent as Sri Lanka’s population rises. The limited supply of medications and medical specialists to address these diseases reduce the chances of patients receiving the care that they need.
  7. Sri Lanka frequently suffers from dengue outbreaks due to its tropical climate. Risk of dengue peaks from October to December and from May to July. In February 2020, the country’s Epidemiology Unit reported 11,352 cases, double the number of cases in 2019.
  8. The country faces a “double burden” of undernutrition and obesity. Stunting in children under 5 years old has stagnated since 2000, hovering between 15% and 19%. Income inequality causes unequal access to food, and many families in rural areas experience food insecurity and malnutrition. Around 45% of adult women, predominately wealthier and living in urban areas, are overweight or obese, a two-fold increase from 2006.

Solution

While it is important to celebrate the country’s successes, there are still aspects that need support. Widespread access to healthcare has increased the life expectancy of the general public but added pressure to a fragile system. The state must do more to close the gaps and improve healthcare in Sri Lanka.

In 2018 the World Bank partnered with the Sri Lankan government to develop a plan to address the gaps in the system. The World Bank supported the project with a $200 million financing from the International Development Association. There needs to be a strengthening of multiple facets of the system: financing, pharmaceuticals procurement and human resources.

There have been massive improvements to healthcare in Sri Lanka. Maternal and child healthcare have improved, emergency care is more robust and treatment for non-communicable diseases is more accessible. Much work remains, but Sri Lanka’s massive strides should receive celebration.

Jasmine Daniel
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is an island country that has 21.7 million inhabitants. However, that number sharply increases throughout the months of December to March as tourists flock to the island to visit its alluring beaches and mountainous terrain. The island nation resembles a tropical paradise, but poverty in Sri Lanka remains a critical concern as the country is still recovering from the tumultuous 30-year civil war which occurred from 1983 until 2009. Over the past decade, Sri Lanka has focused on reconstructing its economy and restructuring the distribution of wealth. The nation has made significant improvements but many serious issues remain in regard to poverty and the reconstruction process. Here are five facts about poverty in Sri Lanka.

5 Facts About Poverty in Sri Lanka

  1. Economic Growth and Living Standards: The poverty rate of Sri Lanka (excluding the Northern and Eastern provinces) decreased from 22.7% in 2002 to 6.1% in 2013. Unfortunately, the nation’s living standards do not reflect the same improvement. In 2013, approximately 45% of the population survived on less than $5 per day. However, the Sri Lankan economy has grown at an average of 5.6% over the past 10 years. This significant growth rate is expanding the middle class, improving purchasing power and increasing the disposable income of Sri Lankan citizens. Consequently, experts expect that living standards in Sri Lanka will improve in the years to come.
  2. Rural Versus Urban Regions: Sri Lanka has a large rural sector which causes an unequal spatial distribution of wealth. In 2013, 75% of Sri Lanka’s total population and more than 85% of Sri Lanka’s poor population lived in rural areas. The country’s wealth largely concentrates in urban centers, limiting poor, rural citizens’ access to resources and establishing a correlated pattern of economic inequality. After the Sri Lankan Civil War ended in 2009, the nation began rebuilding its economy with a focus on manufacturing and important services. This focus encourages the expansion of an urban-based economy which will help to spread resources and balance the apparent economic inequality.
  3. The Agriculture Industry: Almost 30% of Sri Lanka’s workforce and about 50% of the employed poor work in the agriculture industry. The agriculture industry typically has lower wages and fewer opportunities to advance compared to jobs in other sectors. Therefore, it is difficult for poor Sri Lankans in the agriculture sector to increase their annual income and improve their social standing, further perpetuating the rural pockets of poverty in Sri Lanka. Urbanization helps to counteract this phenomenon as it enables rural inhabitants to experience the resources and opportunities that once concentrated in Sri Lanka’s crowded cities. This structural transformation provides a wider array of choices in terms of employment and leisure, and it encourages poorer citizens working in the agriculture sector to engage in more productive industries which resultantly challenges the cycle of poverty in Sri Lanka.
  4. Key Development Indicators: Other socioeconomic issues, such as malnutrition and climate change, directly affect Sri Lanka’s poverty rate. According to the World Food Programme, 22% of Sri Lankans are undernourished or malnourished which signifies that many citizens lack necessary vitamins and minerals. Climate change also negatively affects the poverty rate in Sri Lanka as severe floods and droughts threaten food security and limit access to clean water. To combat these issues, the Sri Lankan government partnered with the World Food Programme to provide “technical and policy support to build national capacity to ensure access to food, end malnutrition and improve the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers.” Additionally, the Sri Lankan government has made significant advances in reducing maternal mortality and increasing access to primary education. The percentage of skilled practitioners attending births in Sri Lanka has dramatically increased in recent years. Resultantly, Sri Lanka’s maternal mortality ratio has decreased from 500-600 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births to 60 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020. Education is a primary focus for the Sri Lankan government, as education is one of the most salient factors in alleviating poverty. Today, 99.08% of children ages 5 to 14 years old attend primary school in Sri Lanka.
  5. COVID-19: Predictions determine that Sri Lanka will experience a 25% (or $750 million) decrease in exports due to COVID-19. The global pandemic has dramatically reduced Sri Lanka’s export earnings, consumption and investment. As a result, top export industries (apparel, tea and rubber) have had to deliver devastating job and earning cuts. Social distancing requirements continue to restrict job performance and tourism, thereby threatening the stability of the economy and the national poverty rate. While the country braces for the economic impact, the government has focused on efforts to contain the spread of the virus. In April 2020, the Sri Lankan government issued a 24-hour curfew, closed all international flights and increased coronavirus testing to slow its spread. These measures made identifying cases of coronavirus quicker and easier which prevented thousands of more deaths from occurring, and which limited the damage to the national economy and poverty rate.

While these five facts about poverty in Sri Lanka show the country’s challenges, it has made significant strides to reduce its poverty rate. Through its continued work independently and with NGOs like the World Food Programme, the country should be able to continue alleviating its poverty rate.

Ashley Bond
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Leading Diseases in Sri Lanka
A 6-year-old boy cried from pain from a small room in an overcrowded ward. The small child had a fever and rash and pointed to the different parts of his body that hurt. Hannah Mendelsohn, a medical volunteer from Haifa, Israel, tried to distract the boy with games of tic-tac-toe and peekaboo.

The child displayed classic symptoms of dengue fever. Doctors diagnosed him with the virus at Karapitiya Teaching Hospital in Galle, Sri Lanka during the summer of 2015. “[The boy] had luckily gotten to the hospital when he was still in an earlier stage of the disease,” Mendelsohn told The Borgen Project. “There were a few times I heard doctors tell patients with dengue that there were no options for life-saving care.”

While non-communicable diseases are the main causes of death in Sri Lanka, many still consider certain infectious diseases, including dengue fever, threats to public health. Here are five leading diseases in Sri Lanka.

5 Leading Diseases in Sri Lanka

  1. Dengue Fever: Dengue is a mosquito-borne virus that is endemic to Sri Lanka. A person can contract dengue any time of year. However, the risk elevates during the monsoon season. This is the time of year when dengue-bearing mosquitos are most common, and severe storms often inhibit travel for care. The year 2019 saw double the cases when compared to the previous year with over 99,000 reported cases and 90 deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently working with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine to control the spread of dengue fever by enhancing dengue surveillance and training health care workers dengue case management and prevention. Among the suggested prevention strategies, WHO advises keeping neighborhoods clean and using mosquito netting and repellents to prevent bites.
  2. Acute Lower Respiratory Infections: Acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) are leading causes of childhood mortality and morbidity in Sri Lanka; they are responsible for 9 percent of deaths of children under age 5. Poor access to health care, food shortages, lack of safe water and poor sanitation elevate the risk and disease burden. Fortunately, the political prioritization of public health has led to increased administration of vaccinations. This has reduced the impact of contracted ALRI. In 2014, Sri Lanka’s government enacted a national immunization policy which guarantees every citizen the right to vaccination. A separate line in the national budget aims to ensure the continuous availability of immunizations.
  3. Typhoid Fever: Typhoid is a bacterial infection that has a high mortality rate when a person does not receive treatment. Between 2005 and 2015, Sri Lank had 12,823 confirmed cases of typhoid fever. The risk of typhoid is related to overcrowding, food shortages and poor water quality. Sri Lanka’s prevention strategy has largely focused on disease surveillance and health education. Every medical practitioner has to notify the government of any typhoid fever diagnosis. Health education has involved the promotion of proper sanitation and immunization campaigns.
  4. Meningitis: Meningitis, a bacterial disease, was the 20th leading cause of premature death in Sri Lanka in 2010. Malnutrition, poor access to health care and poor sanitation are risk factors for infection and disease severity. Since 1990, the annual number of deaths due to meningitis in Sri Lanka has decreased. It was formerly the 16th leading cause of premature death. Experts largely attribute this to the growing accessibility of the Haemophilus Influenzae B vaccine.
  5. Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis was the 21st leading cause of premature death in Sri Lanka in 2010. The estimated number of cases has progressively increased from 10,535 in 1990 to 11,676 in 2007. The National Strategic Plan for Tuberculosis Control 2015-2020 states that Sri Lanka has successfully maintained a high treatment rate for tuberculosis. Because tuberculosis transmits from person-to-person, a high treatment rate reduces the risk of transmitting further infections. Additionally, Sri Lanka has received funding from the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The funds are for raising awareness and increasing access to medication.

Non-communicable diseases currently represent a larger health burden. However, the continued incidence of infectious diseases ­­in Sri Lanka highlights the burden of poverty. For many of these five leading diseases in Sri Lanka, vaccinations are widely available and accessible in developed countries. Yet, reports of cases and fatalities in Sri Lanka still occur.

Still, for infectious diseases where vaccines remain elusive, poverty is a prominent risk factor for infection and severity of illness. Poverty affects the ability to receive adequate nutrition, sanitary housing, health care and more.

“Around the clock, patients died from diseases that are definitely preventable,” Mendelsohn said. “Coming from a developed country where medical care is among the best in the world, it was hard for me to accept that, just a continent away, people were still dying of infectious diseases to which the cures had already been found.”

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Pixabay

Education for Tea Pickers' Children in Sri Lanka 
Tea is the number one export of Sri Lanka, accounting for around $1.67 billion in revenue. This business creates jobs for about 5 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. Tea picking includes the whole family, who often live in housing just off the plantation. As a result, access to education for the tea pickers’ children can be difficult or non-existent.

Sending kids to local schools is also not an option since most families either do not have a method of transportation, or their children are already working in the fields by the age of 13. Despite the fact that tea pickers are the skeleton of the economy, the majority of these tea workers are overworked and underpaid, meaning children often grow up in this same cycle of oppression. Two companies are trying to change this: Tea Leaf Trust and Kindernothilfe. Both are successfully paving the way for a better future by providing tea pickers’ children access to education.

Why Does Education Matter?

Education changes the lives of the people in these tea picking communities. Education can target domestic violence, hopelessness and poverty through learning skills such as professionalism and proficiency in English. By encouraging young people to be role models in their community and instilling a sense of hope and confidence in them, they are able to break out of the tea business and choose their own paths. Families in these communities view education for their children as a means to escape poverty. Without education, many children often commit suicide or self-harm. Suicide rates on plantations are the fourth highest in the world.

Tea Leaf Trust

Started in 2007, Tea Leaf Trust is a company that strives to create a way out for children living in tea picking communities. Alcoholism, malnutrition and disease/lack of sanitation surround many of these communities. Families of six to eight members must live in barrack-type homes which often have no windows and no means of ventilation. The conditions these families are living in hinders their ability to learn in school settings. The main way Tea Leaf Trust is improving conditions is by giving tea pickers’ children access to education, providing a future for both them and their families.

Tea Leaf Trust raised money to start a school to give tea pickers’ children access to education. This school, called Tea Leaf Vision, offers advanced diplomas for people who train and learn to become teachers and two-thirds go on to a university to earn their degrees or get a job off the plantation. Those enrolled in the advanced diploma allocate time to teach the English Community Programme at primary schools on the tea plantations as a part of their own schooling.

Schools in these communities are open once a week at 24 locations. Between 1,600 and 1,900 children attend these schools. These schools offer classes such as Business Studies, English Grammar and Emotional Health. Their focus is twofold: instilling a sense of value and purpose in youth through education and providing community service. Tea Leaf Trust also have plans to open a vocational center in the coming years. This will allow the students to not only learn within their community but also gain skills to move forward in their lives.

Kindernothilfe

Kindernothilfe, German for “supporting children in need,” is a company founded in Germany in 1959. Through its partnership with local NGOs, it has implemented 609 projects in 32 countries. In Sri Lanka, its focus is mainly on women and children, both of whom are often victims of violence and abuse.

Kindernothilfe wants to provide tea pickers’ children access to education. This program, founded in 2005, started its partnership with the Eksath Lanka Welfare Foundation. It now has around 80 children and 60 women enrolled in its program. This includes two children’s clubs where children grow their personal skills. The program also provides funding to children who have previously dropped out of school, allowing them to continue their education for free.

Kindernothilfe also offers an empowerment class to women in these communities. This is where they can discuss their situations, talk through how to manage their household and understand and counsel their children on domestic violence and children’s rights.

Uniformity and Equality of Education

There is a great need for quality education in Sri Lanka and not just in tea picking communities. The education sector is lacking in providing quality criteria and curriculums. Schools on plantations (if they exist at all) lack the most basic equipment and have teachers who are undereducated themselves. A reduction in poverty can be a result of proper education. Poverty is only 18 percent for those with an education, rising to 46 percent for households without an education.

Tea Leaf Trust and Kindernothilfe are just two examples of foundations that have stepped in to fill the gaps. They want to assist in providing educational assistance for those who lack it and change the lives of Sri Lankan tea picker’s children.

– Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Sri LankaSri Lanka is a country that used to be torn by civil war. Now, thanks to peace and foreign investment, the country is making major strides towards improving the lives of its citizens. Below are seven facts about how life expectancy in Sri Lanka is improving.

7 Facts about Life Expectancy in Sri Lanka

  1. Life expectancy in Sri Lanka is currently 77.1 years. The life expectancy for males is 73.7 and is 80.8 for females. This is an increase of more than seven years from 20 years ago.
  2. The country’s three-decade civil war resulted in thousands of deaths including more than 7,000 in the final months. However, since the war ended in 2009, the country has been able to stabilize and improve economic conditions.
  3. Since 2006 the percent of people living in poverty has decreased from 15.3 percent to 4 percent. This decrease in poverty has been in large part due to the improving economy in Sri Lanka which registered an average economic growth rate of 5.8 percent from 2010 to 2017. The correlation between poverty and life expectancy is clear. When one is out of poverty and has more resources, they are able to live longer lives.
  4. Children are being immunized against disease at a 99 percent rate. Children have access to immunizations leading to a lower rate of children dying of preventable diseases. They can live longer and happier lives without worrying about diseases such as measles, hepatitis and DPT.
  5. Sri Lanka is focused on educating its youth, by seeking foreign investment. For instance, in 2017, the country secured a $100 million loan from the World Bank in order to enhance the quality of degree programs and boost STEM enrollment and research opportunities at the university level. The country’s investments are paying off as Sri Lanka has the highest reported youth literacy rate in South Asia at 98.77 percent versus India (89.66) and Bangladesh (83.2 percent).
  6. The under-5 mortality rate is less than 10 percent. The under-5 mortality rate broke below 10 percent in 2014 and has been declining since 2005. In fact, the under-5 mortality rate stood at more than 20 percent less than two decades ago. CARE and the Red Cross are two organizations that have been especially focused on improved health care services since the 1950s.
  7. The U.N. projects that the life expectancy rate will exceed 80 years within the next 20 years. However, as the Minister of External Affairs noted at a U.N. conference in 2014, “with…increased life expectancy, we are facing new challenges, namely the incidence of NCDs, a growing aging population by 2030, addressing issues facing young people and containing the spread of HIV/AIDS.”

Sri Lanka is a great example of a country that shows what can happen with peace and investment. Their economy is growing and with it, the people’s lives are improving not only in quality but also in length.

– Josh Fritzjunker and Kim Thelwell
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Education in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has shocked the world with its success in its system of education. Within less than forty years of independence, the number of schools has increased by 50 percent. In fact, the number of students has increased by 300 percent. Such substantial growth is exemplified in the following eight facts about education in Sri Lanka.

  1. Education is a government priority – The government has invested 14.5 percent of all expenditures in education. Provincial councils oversee provincial schools throughout Sri Lanka. Each has their own Ministry of Education and a Minister to who regulates education policies in the province. For example, Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam recently released a statement about the standard of primary and secondary school education. He stated that it must be monitored by a committee to ensure the standards of education are being maintained. Additionally, he stressed monitoring the higher-level teaching of future teachers to ensure their caliber is of a high enough quality.
  2. It has a free education policy  This policy was ratified October 1, 1945, in Sri Lanka’s constitution. The policy states that every child from the age of five to sixteen has the right to free education. This has allowed Sri Lanka’s literacy rate has reached 92 percent. This policy’s success is further demonstrated in the enrollment rates for boys and girls, with 96 percent of girls and 97 percent of boys enrolled in primary school, 95 percent for both genders in secondary school.
  3. Child mortality is reduced – Education prioritization has resulted in the reduction of Sri Lanka’s child mortality rate. For instance, the country went from 74.3 deaths per 1000 live births in 1968 to 8.8 deaths per 1000 live births in 2017. This is the result of an increase in health interventions. Additionally, the prioritization of education has helped more students learn about health risks and the prevention of harmful diseases than before.
  4. Bilingual teaching – Another piece in the list of facts about education in Sri Lanka pertains to teaching. Many schools are introducing bilingual teaching strategies. These strategies have resulted in stronger educational performances. The official languages in Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil. However, schools teach English as a language from grade three onward, to increase international opportunities for students after finishing their education. Furthermore, they can also retain their local cultural concepts and mother tongue. The Deputy Director of Education of the Bilingual Unit of the Ministry of Education, Priyatha Nanayakkara, even stated that the ultimate goal is to provide bilingual education to all students in Sri Lanka. This is to better equip them for the globalized world. Consequently, Ordinary Level (O/L) examination results have increased from a 50 percent pass rate to a 90 percent pass rate. Even more impactful has been the minimization of a social gap between those who are able to speak English and those who are not able.
  5. They are investing in the future – Since 2011, Sri Lanka has sought out overseas investors to be able to welcome more international students into its system of higher education. In 2017, Sri Lanka received a $100 million World Bank loan to expand their STEM enrollment and research opportunities in their higher education level, as well as improve the quality of related degree programs. The government’s goal is to open up its higher education system to international students by 2020.
  6. Reduction of gender disparities – The Free Education system has fostered the notion of equal opportunity. In fact, in higher levels of education, women are more likely to complete their education than men. For example, 60 percent of those enrolled in higher education were women in 2015. Of the graduating students, 68.5 percent were female. However, while the education system seems to be promoting gender equality, the political environment of Sri Lanka is still sparse in terms of women, a disparity when compared to their educational success that must be addressed to continue their progress.
  7. Parental concerns – Next in the list of facts about education in Sri Lanka is parental concerns. A poll between the Business Times and Colombo-based Research Consultancy Bureau recorded the responses of 800 people. The poll revealed the anxieties of students, parents and teachers surrounding the prioritized education system in Sri Lanka. When the respondents were asked if students were being given too much work leading up to examinations, about 70 percent responded yes. Parents argued that the high school system is especially flawed and are urging for a concrete educational plan for future students.
  8. Disparities Between Urban and Rural Schools Many rural schools, such as the Sri Bodhi school, do not have access to the internet. This is a huge drawback in teaching methods when compared to urban schools. While education is required for all children to a certain age, attendance in rural classes is significantly less than that of urban school classrooms as well. Flora Thin, a University of St. Andrews student, traveled to Sri Lanka with the organization Plan My Gap Year and visited a school in Ambalangoda. Thin recounted the school she attended was a house with three classrooms with few resources. Yet, many considered it fortunate in comparison to surrounding institutions. This is due to the fact that the school received support from the Gap Year program, while others do not.

Progress in Education

These eight facts about education in Sri Lanka illustrate its tremendous progress since achieving independence. But, it is clear there is still much to do before Sri Lanka has ironed out their education strategy. However, these eight facts about education in Sri Lanka depict the substantial progress made in the past few years as proof that the country is on the path to providing its children with the education necessary to succeed in the world today.

– Adya Khosla
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is working hard to reduce poverty with its partners such as the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank. The country has faced a number of development barriers, such as a three-decade civil war, which ended in 2009, and a devastating tsunami in 2004. While sustainable development is ongoing in the country, poverty in Sri Lanka is still a significant issue. Here are the most pressing facts about poverty in Sri Lanka.

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Sri Lanka

  1. Poverty occurs in concentrated pockets in Sri Lanka. For example, former conflict districts such as Mullaitivu and Mannar have 28.8 and 20.1 percent of their citizens living in extreme poverty respectively. Extreme poverty rates are also high in the Batticaloa district (19.4 percent) and in the Monaragala district (20.8 percent).
  2. While certain areas have very high rates of extreme poverty, most poverty in Sri Lanka occurs in affluent districts such as Kurunegala. The Kurunegala district houses 7.7 percent of the country’s poorest citizens as opposed to the combined 3.4 percent in Mullaitivu and Mannar.
  3. About 85 percent of Sri Lanka’s poor live in rural districts, which often lack quality access to education. Rural pre-schools, for example, are often private and for-profit and oftentimes inaccessible or unavailable to poor families. Even if a family can afford pre-school for their children, the schools are little more than playgroups and do not provide an adequate education.
  4. Lack of quality education leads to rampant unemployment, as seen in many rural areas across Sri Lanka. Reportedly 27.7 percent of Sri Lanka’s youth, ages 15 to 24, are not receiving an education, training for future employment or are currently employed.
  5. Nearly 45 percent of Sri Lankans live on less than $5 a day. This means that living standards in certain areas of the country are very low.
  6. There are high rates of undernourishment, stunting and malnourishment in Sri Lanka, especially in children. An overall 22.1 percent of Sri Lanka’s population is undernourished, meaning they do not have enough to eat. In fact, 17.1 percent of Sri Lankan children under the age of five are malnourished and lack access to balanced diets; 17.3 percent of children under five have stunted growth, meaning they are too short for their ages.
  7. About 4.4 percent of Sri Lankans still lack access to electricity. Lack of electricity means that this population also lacks the benefit of refrigerators, washing machines and any other type of technology. Without technology or internet access, this population does not have access to opportunities that could help lift them out of poverty.
  8. Women, rural women especially, are not very economically active. Gender roles in Sri Lanka dictate that women do the bulk of unpaid care work in their households. Women are often responsible for rearing and educating their children, caring for elderly or sick family members, cooking and collecting daily water. Many women do not have time to earn money of their own and become financially independent.
  9. Sri Lanka’s growth rate reached a 16-year low in 2017 at 3.1 percent. Such an occurrence means that the nation’s rate of economic growth is in decline.
  10. Despite environmental disasters and other factors, poverty in Sri Lanka is actually declining. From 2006 to 2016, the rate of extreme poverty declined from 15.3 percent to 4.1 percent, which is among the lowest rates of poverty in the region.

Looking Forward

According to the World Bank, Sri Lanka’s economic outlook remains favorable despite recent declines. The organization reports, “Growth should continue to translate into poverty reduction and improvement in living standards.”

The country still has a long road ahead recovering from civil war and facing ongoing environmental crises, but the declining trend in poverty is a good sign for Sri Lanka’s future.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Unsplash