Sri Lanka is an island off the coast of India, with a rich and diverse history that goes back 3000 years. Nowadays, tourism and the tea industry are the main sources of income for the island, which has a population of 21.5 million.
Sri Lanka is populated by two major ethnic groups, the Sinhalese and the Tamils, with their own language and religion. These differences were at the root of the civil war, which started in 1983 and lasted until 2009. After the war, the country was rebuilding, but the recent political and economic crises and the COVID-19 pandemic worsened living standards for many families.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Sri Lanka since 1981.
The Sri Lankese government has worked towards improving child nutrition, for example by offering free school meals to children. This sometimes is the only proper meal a child will get in a day.
However, malnutrition is still a recurring issue on the island. The numbers speak for themselves: 17% of children between 6 and 59 months suffer from chronic malnutrition. In addition, 17% of children suffer from stunting (low height for age), and 15% suffer from wasting (low weight for height).
Sri Lanka is one of the world’s ten most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, with children suffering the most from its impact. These weather extremes (like droughts and floods) affect hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans, leaving them food insecure and without any access to clean drinking water.
The government has made an effort to listen to children’s voices when it concerns these disasters, and has decided that the needs of children should be prioritized.
Many Sri Lankese families have escaped from extreme poverty, poverty which was caused by years of civil unrest, and by the effects of climate change. However, numerous Sri Lankans still live just above the poverty line. To be precise, one out of every six people in Sri Lanka is “multidimensional” poor. In fact, 42% of children below the age of 4 live in poverty. Those numbers are calculated by measuring four different dimensions: education, health, standard of living and, for children, child development.