Child Poverty in Sri Lanka Child poverty occurs when children from low-income families lack the resources necessary for their overall development and well-being. In 2019, 9.2% of Sri Lanka’s population lived below the poverty line of $3.20 per day. Child poverty in Sri Lanka is one of the major issues the nation is trying to tackle. Based on data from 2019, Sri Lanka’s Child Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) indicates that more than four in every 10 children younger than 5 endure multidimensional poverty. Furthermore, about 33% of children aged 4 and younger suffer multidimensional poverty and are “either underweight or stunted.”

Effects of Child Poverty

According to the American Psychological Association, child poverty can lead to hunger, illness, insecurity, depression and several behavioral problems. Living in poverty creates constant, toxic stress that can impair the development of the brain and impact mental and emotional cognition.

The effects of child poverty in Sri Lanka are long-lasting as these consequences later affect different aspects of adulthood, such as emotional and behavioral self-control and the development of skills necessary to obtain jobs.

The Sri Lanka Journal for Child Health conducted research and found that individuals suffering from child poverty in Sri Lanka experience different implications. The Journal stated that “they can experience deficiencies in nutritious food, housing, safe environment and access to health care and are at higher risk of being exposed to trauma and stressful life events.”

In addition, the study points out that children living in poverty are more likely to experience neglect and separation from their families. Their needs are overlooked due to the unresponsiveness of their parents and the stress arising from chronic poverty. As a result, child poverty can lead to difficulties in building bonds and relationships with others and children can experience language deficiencies as they grow up. Child poverty affects a child physically, mentally and emotionally. Here are several solutions to reduce child poverty in Sri Lanka.

Solutions to Child Poverty in Sri Lanka

  1. Resource Use: There is unequal accessibility of social services for children in Sri Lanka. For example, most schools and health care centers are located in large cities rather than in the suburbs. Local child support programs and social protection systems such as Sevana Sarana Foster Parent Scheme ensure children have equal access to education and other services regardless of financial situations. The SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka provides vulnerable children and their siblings with family-like care and a place to call home. The organization also sets up schools and medical centers in each SOS Children’s Village.
  2. Daycare Centers: According to the World Bank, many childcare centers are understaffed and lack infrastructure. In 2015, the World Bank introduced the Early Childhood Development Project to establish more child care centers, provide training for childcare givers and make improvements to existing facilities. Now, the World Bank is moving toward a more holistic approach by making daycare centers more affordable and having them operate longer hours to accommodate children whose parents work night shifts.
  3. The World Food Programme (WFP): Based on a report from the WFP, “the country faces the impact of a nutritional ‘triple burden’ spanning undernutrition, high levels of overweight and obesity and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.” In 2019, the WFP introduced the Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network to engage in solutions related to nutrition while establishing school feeding programs. The organization has been closely working with the Sri Lankan government to establish a social behavior change communication strategy to improve dietary practices in Sri Lanka.

Looking Ahead

The issue of child poverty in Sri Lanka requires sustained work and attention from the government and global organizations. Children who live in poverty suffer long-term effects physically, mentally and emotionally. The efforts of child support programs, well-equipped daycare centers and humanitarian organizations, such as the World Food Programme, ensure the well-being and development of Sri Lankan children.

– Jiaying Guo
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