Sri Lanka has suffered one crisis after another
SOS Children`s Villages is supporting this single mother and her children so that they can stay together in spite of all the hardships (photo: SOS archives).
The Republic of Sri Lanka lies in the Indian Ocean. 21.5 million people live on the island. And their lives have not been easy: In 2002, after two decades of fighting, a cease-fire was agreed upon and peace negotiations started. In 2009, the violence between the Tamil Tigers and government forces finally ended. The war deeply affected the Sri Lankan population, particularly young children and adolescents. The 2004 tsunami left 40,000 dead and many more homeless. In 2011, hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans were displaced because of massive flooding in the country's east. The most recent economic, social and political crisis has led to hyperinflation, job losses, and shortages of food, goods and medicines.
Families are struggling to provide basic needs
In recent months, the situation in Sri Lanka has changed drastically: 9 out of 10 people in the country have become dependent on state handouts since the crisis started, according to the Ministry for Women and Child Affairs.
There are many factors contributing to this crisis. Among them is the COVID-19 pandemic that meant that the country´s tourism sector came to a standstill. In addition, the country is affected by the war in Ukraine – Sri Lanka imported 43% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine and exported 18% of its black tea harvest to these two countries. Trading has stopped in both directions.
Adults are spending their days queueing for essential items such as fuel, cooking gas and medicines. The shortage of electricity is affecting all aspects of life – from hospital operations to education. Many schools have closed. Children are expected to learn online, but this is no always possible: many children do not have access to stationary, let alone computers or smartphones. Even those who do have the technology, can´t learn because of the power cuts.
Children in need of special protection and care
SOS Children`s Villages supports children so that they can go to school and become independent young people (photo: L. Barclay).
The economic, social and political crisis means that children are in need of special protection and care.
Through this crisis, parents are doing their best to care for their children in the short-term. Many have sold their livestock or assets to get some disposable income. This ensures that they can buy essential goods such as drinking water and food, and that children can continue going to school.
Families are also doing small side businesses because there is no reliable source of income. They are living from one day to the next, and the majority rely on rations.
However, this is not a sustainable solution. Families are in urgent need of support.
SOS Children's Villages in Sri Lanka
Strengthen families: We work with local partners and the community to help families stay together. We make sure that vulnerable families have access to basic goods and services such as health care and education. In addition to providing childcare, we also give training and advice so that parents can generate an income to look after their children. By September 2022, we had helped 2,800 families.
Care for children who have lost parental care: If, in spite of all support, children are unable to stay with their parents, they find a new home in SOS Children`s Villages. Over 800 children grow up with their brothers and sisters in a safe environment.
Wherever possible, we work closely with the children’s family of origin, so that the children can return to live with them. Whenever this happens, we work towards supporting them during the period of adjustment.
Education: More than 640 children regularly attend the SOS Children’s Villages kindergartens, and primary and secondary schools throughout the country.
Support for young people: We support young people until they are able to live independently. We give them access to further education and vocational training so that they have the right skills to find a job, or start their own business. We also partner with local business so that young people can gain practical work experience.
Humanitarian Appeal: SOS Children’s Village is increasing our support to the most vulnerable children, young people and families. We address the urgent and basic needs of families who require most support in the worst affected areas. We work with local communities to protect children from harm. We ensure that families have access to food and other basic needs. We support children so that they can continue their education..
Website of SOS Children's Villages Sri Lanka
(available in English)