Sri Lanka Appeal
Humanitarian Action for Children
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal helps support the agency’s work as it provides conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health and protection services. Return to main appeal page.
Sri Lanka snapshot
- An acute economic crisis since early 2022 has caused severe food insecurity in Sri Lanka, and the situation is predicted to deteriorate between October 2022 and February 2023. An estimated 6.2 million people (28 per cent of the population) are moderately acute food insecure, while 66,000 people are severely acute food insecure. Two in five households (41.8 per cent) spend more than 75 per cent of their expenditures on purchasing food, leaving little to spend on health and education. Many families have exhausted their savings and are struggling due to crippling inflation.
- UNICEF will prioritize access to basic social services to reduce the need for vulnerable families to resort to negative coping strategies. UNICEF will address humanitarian needs through existing systems, where possible, and incorporate community-based approaches where relevant.
- UNICEF requires US$28.3 million to meet critical needs linked to nutrition, social protection and humanitarian cash transfers, education and child protection among the most vulnerable children and families affected by the economic crisis.
Key planned results for 2023
1.2 million children and women accessing primary health care
430,000 children receiving micronutrient powder
665,690 children receiving individual learning materials
121,769 households reached with UNICEF-funded humanitarian cash transfers
Funding requirements for 2023
Country needs and strategy
Sri Lanka is in the middle of an acute economic crisis that is expected to continue throughout 2023, with an estimated 6.2 million people, including 2.9 million children, in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in 2023. In a context of soaring inflation, heightened income insecurity and scarce availability of essential products (e.g., food, fuel, fertilizers and medicines), families are unable to meet their basic needs. Throughout 2022, recurring and frequent natural hazards continued to affect the agriculture sector, contributing to low yields. With the forecast 40 per cent reduction in food production compared with previous years, food insecurity could further deteriorate from October 2022 to February 2023. While 5.3 million people were already skipping meals as a coping strategy, this number is expected to increase drastically in the coming months with the combined impact of climate-induced natural hazards and a political impasse.
From an already alarming nutrition situation in the country, particularly 'very high' wasting, according to World Health Organization thresholds, the child malnutrition level is projected to worsen in the coming months. Provision of safe drinking water, particularly in water-scarce rural and estate areas, is hampered due to lack of funding for operation, maintenance and importation of water treatment chemicals. If the situation is not addressed urgently, children will be at a significant risk of waterborne diseases. Essential health services have been severely affected by critical shortages of medicines, affecting pregnant and lactating women and children.
Schools remained closed for most of 2022 until mid-August amid a worsening fuel shortage, and this disrupted learning for 4.8 million children and increased mental health and psychosocial issues. School attendance is frequently low among students and teachers, particularly those in rural schools, due to transportation issues, economic challenges and limited provision of school meals, which discourages school attendance.
Child protection issues increased significantly in 2022, especially in rural and estate areas. Children face protection challenges, with more parents seeking to admit them to childcare institutions due to increasing food insecurity, poverty and internal and external labour migration.
Sri Lanka’s social protection system, characterized by high levels of fragmentation, weak coordination, low coverage and large exclusion errors and limited adequacy of benefits, is not yet prepared to respond to a shock of this magnitude and to provide reliable protection to all vulnerable groups and prevent negative coping strategies. Without urgent and robust humanitarian support, the current crisis will have progressive, long-lasting consequences for all children.
Since the onset of the economic crisis in Sri Lanka, UNICEF has continued to support the strengthening of the government-led systems through the complementary provision of life-saving assistance. This work is carried out in partnership with other United Nations agencies and civil society organizations and addresses the needs of vulnerable children and families to ensure development gains are not lost. In 2023, UNICEF aims to support the most vulnerable children who have been negatively impacted by the economic crisis and support the Government of Sri Lanka and partners to design and implement effective response and recovery strategies.
Guided by the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action, UNICEF will reach vulnerable children and women with essential services; strengthen integrated systems to build community resilience; and scale up preparedness and early warning efforts to monitor the evolving situation.
UNICEF will assist government systems in maintaining and improving the quality of health and nutrition services and platforms for both preventive and curative care at the facility and community level for girls and boys, women and vulnerable communities. UNICEF will help to ensure safe drinking water in rural and estate areas by providing supplies to complete water projects that have been on hold due to lack of government funding and by mainstreaming climate-resilient WASH and water safety planning assistance.
UNICEF will strengthen and expand preventive measures that address child protection risks and respond to the needs of vulnerable children. UNICEF will work with partners to reinforce emergency case management services for the most vulnerable children, including separated children and children with disabilities. Providing mental health and psychosocial support in schools and communities will be an integral part of protection interventions.
Building on the existing programmes on child-centred disaster risk reduction, UNICEF will ensure opportunities for adolescents and youth to participate meaningfully in humanitarian response and disseminate accurate life-saving information for preparedness and climate action.
UNICEF will continue to prioritize quality formal education in protective environments in coordination with partners, ensuring uninterrupted learning for vulnerable children in small, resource-poor, rural schools island-wide. Social protection services, especially cash interventions targeting pregnant women and mothers/primary caretakers of young children, will be highly prioritized to address the consequences of economic crisis.
UNICEF leads the nutrition, education, protection, WASH and social protection sectors and plays a key role in the health and food security sectors and in the cash working group. UNICEF and partners continue to assess the situationand will remain agile in responding to the most vulnerable children as conditions evolve.
Find out more about UNICEF's work
Humanitarian Action is at the core of UNICEF’s mandate to realize the rights of every child. This edition of Humanitarian Action for Children – UNICEF’s annual humanitarian fundraising appeal – describes the ongoing crises affecting children in Sri Lanka; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.