Devastating crisis for children, a ‘cautionary tale’ for South Asia –

The UN Children’s Fund’s warning comes as Sri Lanka continues to suffer its worst economic collapse since independence in 1948.

Mr. Laryea-Adjei reports, “Families are forgoing regular meals as basic necessities become unaffordable. Children go to bed hungry and don’t know where their next meal will come from.”

Mass food insecurity will only fuel malnutrition, poverty, disease and death in the region, he added.

Rising food insecurity has exacerbated the social problems already plaguing the nation. The UN estimates that half of Sri Lanka’s children are already in need of some form of emergency aid.

Education, a sector hit by the economic crisis, has seen a drop in student numbers and a lack of resources, in addition to commuting made dangerous by outdated infrastructure.

increase in abuse

Laryea-Adjei further announced that “there are already reports of an increase in abuse, exploitation and violence against children due to increasing economic pressure”.

Similarly, in Sri Lanka there are already over 10,000 children in institutional care, mainly due to poverty. These facilities do not provide the critical family support essential to children’s development.

Unfortunately, the current crisis is driving more and more families to institutionalize their children because they can no longer care for them.

Progress “Permanently Deleted”

“If current trends continue, there is a risk that hard-won gains for children in Sri Lanka will be reversed and in some cases permanently wiped out,” Laryea-Adjei said.

UNICEF has been active in Sri Lanka for over 50 years. With the support of global partners, UNICEF has distributed educational materials, provided meals for preschool children and urgently needed cash for pregnant and nursing mothers.

But the current economic crisis has exposed the vulnerability at the heart of Sri Lanka’s social infrastructure, he noted.

© UNICEF/Chameera Laknath

George Laryea-Adjei, Regional Director for South Asia (right), visits a family’s home in Watawala, Sri Lanka.

solutions for children

Reflecting further on the steps UNICEF should take to help Sri Lanka’s children affected by the economic crisis, Mr Laryea-Adjei said: “Children must be put at the center of the solution as the country works towards the solution the crisis works.

“There must be continuity of learning for girls and boys of all ages so that they can prepare for their future and be protected from the dangers of child labour, exploitation and gender-based violence. Central and primary health services must be prioritized to protect women and children from life-threatening diseases and malnutrition.”

Unless immediate action is taken to protect children from the worst effects of the global economic downturn, vulnerable children will be pushed further into poverty – and their health, nutrition, education and safety at risk.

It should therefore be a priority for the international community to invest in the resilience of local communities as a bulwark against crises. UNICEF said the emergency in Sri Lanka was a warning to other South Asian countries about the risks of not preparing for economic hardship.

Sir. Laryea-Adjei concluded: “We cannot allow children to pay the price for crises that are not of their making. We must act today to secure their future tomorrow.”

Leave a Comment