ChildFund New Zealand Senior Technical Adviser Sally Angelson writes about the economic crisis in Sri Lanka, how it started and how Kiwis can help people living there.
We are hearing more and more from our partners in Sri Lanka of the worsening situation in Sri Lanka, and like most crisis situations, it certainly didn't happen overnight
So how did Sri Lanka get into this crisis? While the meltdown of the Sri Lankan economy was only accelerated and globally recognised earlier this year, several factors in the past three years have contributed.
Firstly, the tourism industry in Sri Lanka, a major industry there, suffered serious serious set-backs ever since the Easter bomb attacks in 2019. Stagnating economic growth rates continued and were then further exacerbated by the COVID-19 lock downs.
Fast forward and the country has now run out of foreign currency reserves and is at danger of failing its debt payments to international creditors. As a consequence, there is political instability, protests, the rupee is devalued, inflation is skyrocketing, there are huge shortages in essential items like medicine, food and gas, with regular power cuts and more.
Sri Lanka is in crisis, and like with any crisis, it is felt most acutely by the most vulnerable communities, many of which ChildFund supports.
Effects on these communities include on livelihoods, health, nutrition, education, and child protection.
Farmers and fishermen are struggling due to fuel scarcity, construction workers can’t find jobs and small to medium businesses are struggling to keep afloat. Increased borrowing is putting families at breaking point, with the resulting stress leading to a rise in domestic violence.
Low-income families are eating less and the quality of what they are eating is reducing. There is scarcity of medicine, no transport to health clinics and the cancelation of school food programmes is increasing child malnutrition, all putting children and families' health at risk.
School attendance is decreasing, school dropout rates increasing while power cuts and lack of transport for teachers is interrupting studies and exams.
More mothers are having to work abroad as housemaids for income, taking them away from their families. Often also they have to use illegal means, in desperation, to migrate. There is increased child labour, and children’s exposure to the ongoing violence and protest adds to their anxiety levels.
ChildFund's response in Sri Lanka
ChildFund Sri Lanka is responding right now to the most affected children, families and communities including with food distribution, medical assistance and school material supply.
- Providing food rations to affected families and organising community feeding programmes targeting malnourished or underweight children
- Supporting families with home gardens and chickens
- Identifying children in need of medical assistance and supporting them with transport and medicines
- Supporting children with necessary school materials and access to online education
- Working with youth to continue in their vocational training programmes, and working through our community based protection mechanisms to identify
- Addressing any child protection issues caused by the crisis
- Providing basic psychosocial assistance such as stress management and conflict management, to ease the mental stress on families at this time
ChildFund is in constant contact with partner community organisations and supporting staff in Sri Lanka. As in any emergency that we work in ChildFund is closely coordination with some of the government agencies, international NGO forum and UN Humanitarian Country Team.
We continue to watch the situation closely, and our heart goes out to all our partners and friends affected in Sri Lanka.
We need your help with this support, and the best way to help is through Child Essentials – a fund we use to support the most pressing issues affect the children and their families throughout our ChildFund family.
Right now, ChildFund's Child Essentials is supporting this crisis in Sri Lanka.
Further reading on Sri Lanka's economic crisis