While the official poverty rate is very low, the majority of Sri Lanka’s children live in families that are struggling financially, and 36 per cent of children live in families with a per person expenditure of less than Rs. 278 a day, a new UNICEF report said.
A statement from the UNICEF Sri Lanka said 74 per cent live in families with a per person expenditure of less than Rs. 506 per day.
A new UNICEF Sri Lanka report recommends the establishment of a Universal Child Benefit (UCB) as a vital step to reduce the poverty and vulnerability faced by families and children in Sri Lanka, which for many has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Produced with support from the European Union (EU) the ‘Investing in the Future: A Universal Child Benefit for Sri Lanka’s children’ report has been released to mark the 31st anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), celebrated globally on November 20 as World Children’s Day. The report outlines options for providing all children with a monthly benefit at a relatively low cost to the country, thus making it financially feasible for Sri Lanka, while having a significant impact on child well-being and on the nation’s overall development.
Among the findings, the report notes that while Sri Lanka has made considerable progress in improving the lives of its children over decades, there are still large disparities in how children are faring depending on where they live or their family conditions.
For over 70 per cent of Sri Lankan households, food comprises more than 40 per cent of their total expenditure, limiting the capacity to invest in their children;
Wasting affects 15 per cent of children under the age of five years, which places Sri Lanka in the ten worst countries on this indicator in the world. Stunting and wasting affect children across the welfare distribution, reflecting the fact that most families are living on limited incomes.
The COVID-19 crisis has likely exacerbated these challenges, as many families have lost all or part of their income, cut down on the number and quality of meals, depleted their savings and resorted to pawning and selling assets to generate income.