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

 Sri Lanka
Compared to other states in its region, Sri Lanka is doing well economically as a middle-income country. It is lagging, however, in certain aspects that include hunger and chronic malnutrition. The following are the top 10 facts about hunger in Sri Lanka.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Sri Lanka

  1. Despite reducing maternal mortality rates and cutting poverty in half, Sri Lanka is still struggling with food insecurity. Undernutrition of its population remains a prevalent issue in Sri Lanka. While the country has been making big strides, food insecurity has the ability to get in the way of socio-economic development.
  2. Sri Lanka’s levels of chronic malnutrition, or stunting, is the lowest in the region at 13 percent. Compared to its peers (India has an alarming rate of 38 percent), this rate is not high. Stunting prevents proper brain and body development in children, leading to a less prosperous and healthy population.
  3. However, Sri Lanka has one of the highest rates of acute malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies in the world. Just behind Djibouti and South Sudan, Sri Lanka ranks third with rates between 14 and 35 percent throughout the country’s districts, which is particularly concerning for the health of Sri Lanka’s population.
  4. Sri Lanka has a 19.6 percent prevalence of wasting. Wasting refers to a low body weight compared to height ratio, illustrating the considerable effect of undernutrition.
  5. Sri Lanka’s island status makes it vulnerable to unpredictable weather patterns. Since 2016, Sri Lanka has been suffering from a severe drought that is still affecting 1.2 million people across the country. This significantly contributes to food insecurity because it wipes out large amounts of crops and agricultural food sources.
  6. The government of Sri Lanka estimates that 480,000 food insecure people will need humanitarian aid because of the effects of the 2016 drought. This aid is necessary to prevent the hunger problem from getting worse.
  7. As of 2017, the Sri Lankan government announced its plan to prioritize ending hunger and malnutrition. Working with the World Food Programme, the government is focusing on achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2. This goal includes improving food security, ending hunger and advancing sustainable agriculture by 2030.
  8. Rice production has dropped severely since the drought hit Sri Lanka. A rice harvest in 2017 yielded 63 percent below normal. The population depends greatly on rice for sustenance and survival, and it is the main item affected by the drought.
  9. Among developing countries, Sri Lanka ranked 87th on the Global Hunger Index. This list was calculated by taking into account rates of stunting and wasting in children under 5, amount of population undernourished, and infant mortality rates. From “Low” to “Extremely Alarming,” this gave the country a status of “Serious” in 2016.
  10. The government of Sri Lanka and the World Food Programme have been working together for 50 years. The WFP focuses on supporting the population to gain access to a more steady supply of food. They address not only emergency situations like the 2016 drought but also long-term solutions to hunger.

Although Sri Lanka is improving in many ways, the country has a long way to come in regards to food insecurity. These top 10 facts about hunger in Sri Lanka provide clear insight into the humanitarian efforts that need to be made to mitigate this issue.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

ecotourism in sri lanka
Elephants, whales, dolphins, eagles and mangrove forests are just a few aspects of Sri Lankan nature that give rise to the increasing popularity and benefits of ecotourism in Sri Lanka.

Tourism in Sri Lanka

Tourism, in general, is rapidly increasing in Sri Lanka. The surge in number of tourists seeking Sri Lanka’s nature brought initial exploitation and misuse of nature by locals trying to capitalize on the quickly accelerating business. However, ecotourism in Sri Lanka and efforts from others inspire more protection and the growth of sustainable tourism.

While further improvement efforts are still needed, nature is now more recognized by Sri Lankan locals and government as a valuable resource that needs protection and intelligent management. Only this kind of treatment will continue bringing income and other benefits.

The number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka hovered around 200,000 to 500,000 per year for the past three decades. However, in 2011, that number raised to about 850,000 tourists, which reached beyond two million tourists in 2016. While the number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka has drastically increased in the past few years, the average length of stay has consistently remained the same since at least the 1970s – about 10 nights.

A Nation’s Economy

Those 11 days and 10 nights of tourists pouring their money into Sri Lanka’s economy combined with the drastic increase in number of tourists in the past few years has caused the tourism sector to become an important core of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Exchange (FE) earners. Ranking third in 2016 behind worker’s remittances at 29 percent and textiles/garments at 19 percent, tourism brought 14 percent of Sri Lanka’s FE earnings.

Undoubtedly, tourism is becoming an increasingly important and beneficial part of Sri Lanka’s economy that helps to reduce poverty and empower local communities. The surge in tourism presents economic benefits, stark challenges and sustainability issues as businesses seek to capitalize.

Elephants

For example, elephants are one of the major tourist draws, and they have been (and some still are) horribly abused by Sri Lankan locals trying to make a profit from tourists. Many tourists are not aware of the extreme suffering captive elephants undergo in the businesses offering elephant rides.

Some good news is that many local Sri Lankans, international animal protectors and ecotourists are trying to put an end to the suffering of elephants in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry while also providing alternative tourism income. There are now sanctuaries for elephants to rescue the creatures from abusive businesses and provide acreage and veterinary care for the rescued elephants to heal and retire.

The Sri Lanka Wildlife and Conservation Society (SLWCS) is a non-profit organization working to bring harmony between humans, elephants and nature in Sri Lanka. SLWCS focuses on sustainable economic development, conservation and field research. New Life Elephant Sanctuary (NLES) is a project of SLWCS, with goals of providing medical care and protected nature habitat for rescued elephants, educating people and transforming tourism into a co-existence format that doesn’t hurt the elephants.

Ecotourists are drawn to spending their money on visiting wildlife sanctuaries such as NLES rather than abusive businesses. As general tourism and ecotourism in Sri Lanka grows, so do organizations such as SLWCS, regulations and improvements in environmental management.

Mangroves

Mangrove ecosystems also provide an option for the development of sustainable ecotourism in Sri Lanka. Although Sri Lanka’s mangrove ecosystems were hit hard during the 2004 tsunami, local communities, experts and organizations work to restore them.

Mangroves provide locals with tourism income as they continue to heal from tsunami damage. The trees not only provide opportunity for sustainable tourism income, but they also offer a habitat for unique species and act as a buffer protection shield for inland Sri Lanka against tsunamis and other storms.

Exclusive Economic Zone and the DWC

In addition to nature that can be used as economic resources within the country, Sri Lanka also has sovereign rights to an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) — an area that includes 510,000 square kilometers of ocean extending 200 nautical miles beyond its shore.

It is now illegal in Sri Lanka to go whale or dolphin watching without paying a park fee for a permit from the Department of Wildlife and Conservation (DWC). Also, since 2013, fishing licenses are now required for any fishing activities, and registration certificates must be obtained for any boats intended as fishing vessels.

Prioritization of Both Tourism and Nature

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also helps Sri Lankans deal sustainably with issues connected to its increasing numbers of tourists and urbanization. In September 2017, USAID granted $625,000 to organizations in Sri Lanka for proper waste management, including recycling and to “create livelihood and income generating opportunities such as composting and the sale of recyclable and reusable plastics.”

Overall, initially poor management of the surge of tourism and mishandling of nature in Sri Lanka led to eventual increase in protections for animals, conservation of land and more sustainable ways to share nature with tourists. While continued and expanded efforts are still needed, increasing conservation efforts from locals, assistance from USAID and eco-friendly choices of ecotourists are helping Sri Lankans realize longer-lasting economic benefits of their sustainable tourism and nature.

– Emme Leigh
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Sri Lanka
Poverty in Sri Lanka has seen a decline from 22.7 percent in 2002 to 6.1 percent in 2012-13. However, the Northern and Eastern provinces of the country have not yet experienced much change. The places most affected by poverty are Mullaitivu at 28.8 percent, Mannar at 20.1 percent and Batticaloa district at 19.4 percent.

The Role of Millennium Challenge Corporation

Like in many developing countries, poverty in Sri Lanka has been declining, but the pace of decline has been very slow and irregular. One of the primary ways in which the government tries to reduce poverty is by focusing on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and improving job opportunities for people.

Today, many world organizations assist developing countries in realizing their goals. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is one such organization working towards alleviating global poverty. The group is an independent U.S. foreign aid agency which grants financial assistance to developing countries in order to help uplift them.

Process of Selection

The process of selecting the country eligible for a compact, large-scale five-year plan is done based on a 20 point criteria laid down by the organization. Only countries that practice good governance, work towards the welfare of the citizens and fulfill at least a minimum number of those set criteria are eligible to receive grants. MCC assists such countries in the development of various sectors like transportation, education, housing and so on.

The focus of MCC is to enable developing countries to achieve the SDGs and thereby reduce poverty. The organization started operating in 2004 and has so far signed compacts with 29 countries around the world.

MCC’s Role in Alleviating Poverty in Sri Lanka

In December 2016, the organization selected Sri Lanka to receive foreign aid after noting that the country passed 13 out of the 20 indicators on MCC’s policy scorecard. In June 2018, MCC advanced its partnership with Sri Lanka confirming its unswerving support in helping the country prosper and flourish. Caroline Nguyen, the Managing Director of MCC for Europe, Asia, Pacific, and Latin America visited the country from June 11th to 13th to finalize the proposed MCC compact which aims to reduce poverty in Sri Lanka.

MCC’s focus is on investing in land and transport projects of the government of Sri Lanka. The proposed compact aims to systematize the interregional movement of goods and people, regulate traffic congestions and help develop a more organized land administration.

MD Nguyen signed an agreement with the U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Robert Hilton, at the Ministry of Finance granting $2.6 million as financial aid for the same. This is in addition to the $7.4 million which was granted in July last year. Nguyen told The Sunday Leader “We are pleased to partner with Sri Lanka on a program that will reduce poverty through economic growth and improve lives in the country.”

Future Direction

Robert Hilton, the Deputy Chief of Mission, told the Asian Tribune, “the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact is an important part of the U.S. government’s commitment to work as partners with the people of Sri Lanka to support sustainable development throughout the country.”

The finalized MCC compact will be presented to the MCC’s Board of Directors for approval by late 2018. The organization assures it will fund the compact entirely through grants (which do not need to be repaid) rather than loans — a sustainable start to a bright future.

– Shruthi Nair
Photo: Flickr

U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Sri LankaThe small South Asian country of Sri Lanka has been supported by the United States since the 1950s through U.S.-led programs that have invested in the island nation. Programs over the years have focused on a variety of causes, including health, education, business development, trade and good governance, just to name a few.

Since the tsunami of 2004, more assistance has come to this country of 21 million residents to help it continue to grow its economy as the U.S. pursues its goal of widening and accelerating economic growth as well as reconciling the ethnic and religious tensions within Sri Lanka.

However, the foreign aid cut proposed by President Trump will directly affect the amount of aid the U.S. can donate to this country, which is still trying to recover from a series of natural disasters and civil conflicts. In light of these recent developments, it is important to examine how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Sri Lanka.

The Realities of Foreign Aid

Trump’s proposal intends to cut foreign aid by an estimated 28 percent from last year, a significant amount that can no longer be used to continue to aid the world’s poor. A common assumption is that the U.S. spends a large portion of its federal budget on foreign aid, but this is a misconception.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, on average, Americans believe that roughly a quarter of the U.S. federal budget is spent on foreign aid, when, in reality, the U.S. government has only allocated roughly 1 percent of its annual budget to be spent on foreign aid.

In the case of a nation like Sri Lanka, foreign aid from the U.S. has not only helped citizens rebuild their lives after natural disasters and civil conflicts, but in turn, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Sri Lanka by receiving returns on its business relations with the country, due to the support the U.S. has given the Sri Lankan economy.

Bilateral Business Relations

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Sri Lanka through its continued participation in bilateral trade with the country, by exporting products such as industrial machinery, medical instruments, aircraft parts, lentils, paper, food, garment fabrics and pharmaceuticals.

This bilateral trade agreement between the U.S. and Sri Lanka has helped the U.S. economy over the years. In 2017 alone, the U.S. sent $335.7 million in exports to the nation, while imports from Sri Lanka totaled $2.86 billion.

Sri Lanka currently desires to uplift its citizens out of poverty and develop the nation into an upper middle-income economy. The nation’s gross domestic product was an estimated $81.3 billion in 2016, and is expected to increase by 7 percent by the year 2020.

Growth Opportunities in Sri Lanka

Unlike many of its Asian counterparts, Sri Lanka is looking to arrange more foreign investment deals, which is an arena the U.S. can take advantage of with investments. U.S. investment in Sri Lanka will generate more annual revenue for both countries, especially in tourism, a thriving industry that serves as an example of how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Sri Lanka.

This potential revenue will help strengthen the U.S. economy while helping to provide local jobs for Sri Lankan citizens. Sri Lanka also has other advantageous policies to offer the U.S., such as a relatively open financial system, a moderately stable monetary policy, improved infrastructure and world-class local companies.

If the U.S. continues to aid the citizens of Sri Lanka in resolving the country’s economic challenges, it will also find itself generating more revenue for its own economy, Time will tell what effects the current circumstances will have on both nations.

– Lois Charm

Photo: Flickr

Female Political Representation in Sri Lanka Increases After Local ElectionsThe February 10 local government elections in Sri Lanka has led to more women holding elected positions than ever before. Prior to the elections, female political representation in Sri Lanka was almost nonexistent; only two percent of local government officials were women. The change in representation can be accredited to the passage of an amendment requiring that 25 percent of political candidates in Sri Lanka be women.

This amendment was passed in 2016, but the February 10 local elections were the first to occur under the new mandate. The recent elections saw 17,000 female candidates run for office. In total, more than 56,000 candidates ran for about 8,000 positions. Only 82 women were elected to local office in the 2011 local elections. After the February 10 election, more than 2,000 women will act as representatives in local government.

Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, has elected Rosy Senanayake as the city’s first female mayor. Mayor Senanayake, a representative from the United National Party, is a prominent activist for women’s and children’s rights. She currently serves as the spokesperson for the prime minister’s office.

The newly-elected female representatives are redefining political norms within their parties. In the past, female candidates have been assigned to outlying districts or entirely prevented from running by powerful men in their parties. The 25 percent candidate quota forced parties to adopt more inclusive policies. Unfortunately, some religious and political heads still urged community members to vote against female candidates.

Increased female political representation in Sri Lanka has the potential to bring new issues to the forefront of government agendas. Many female candidates, backed by women’s organizations, campaigned on promises to end corruption and promote women’s rights. Women’s activist groups like the Eastern United Women Organization (EUWO) have fought for protections for vulnerable groups like women, children and war-affected citizens. These activist groups were natural allies to aspiring female politicians.

EUWO supported the campaigns of 27 women. According to R.G. Podimenike, convener for EUWO, candidates were trained to “eliminate gender-based violence, enhance democratic governance, access government services and promote ethnic reconciliation among multi-ethnic groups who faced three decades of war.”

Long-term effects of the electoral amendment remain to be seen. Ambika Satkunanathan, the commissioner at Sri Lanka’s independent human rights commission, emphasizes that simply increasing female political representation in Sri Lanka will not automatically change the country’s culture.

“The structures will remain, the culture will remain within the local council, within local municipalities and political parties,” says Satkunanathan. “So how are they going to challenge that? We may have elected women, yes that is great. But if they toe the party line, if they are controlled, what is the point?”

With continued efforts from organizations like EUWO, more and more people will move toward the acceptance of gender equality and female political representation in Sri Lanka will only continue to improve.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr