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
- Children are disproportionately affected by the rapidly unfolding economic crisis in Sri Lanka. Rising food and fuel prices, along with frequent power cuts, shortages of life-saving medicine, are particularly impacting the poorest and most marginalized.
- More than 5.7 million people, including 2.3 million children, require humanitarian assistance. Sri Lanka is among the top ten countries with the highest number of malnourished children and the numbers are expected to rise further. Essential health and WASH services have been severely impacted by stockouts of essential commodities, and access to education and child protection services is severely constrained. Loss and precariousness of income means that children are being exposed to violence and stress, and increased school absenteeism/dropout due to the current crisis could further increase such risks. In addition, more families are soliciting to institutionalize their children in face of aggravating poverty.
- In line with Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action and the inter-agency Humanitarian Needs and Priorities Plan for Sri Lanka, UNICEF requires US$25.3 million to meet critical needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized children and their families by ensuring continued access to essential services and support.
Key planned results for 2022
430,650 children receiving multiple micronutrient powders
1.2 million people accessing primary health care in UNICEF-supported facilities
984,300 children/caregivers accessing mental health and psychosocial support
665,690 children accessing educational services
Funding requirements for 2022
Country needs and strategy
Children are disproportionately affected by the unfolding economic crisis in Sri Lanka. Concurrent challenges of increasing public debt and fiscal deficit have impacted availability and affordability of essential commodities such as food, fuel, fertilizers, and medicine. These in turn have disrupted livelihoods and reduced household incomes across the country. As a result, around 5.7 million people, including 2.3 million children, are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Sri Lanka's food production and harvest is expected to drop by at least 40 to 50 per cent in the coming months resulting in a further deterioration of the situation. Families are already struggling to afford food, with 70 per cent of households reporting reduced food consumption. Sri Lanka is second in South Asia in terms of wasting among children under five. Halted distribution of free supplementary food for malnourished children and the faltering provision of nutritious school meals will result in more children suffering from acute malnutrition.
Sri Lanka's alarming food security and nutrition situation is further threatened by a reduction in the availability of safe water, increasing the risk of diarrhoeal diseases. The provision of safe water has been severely impacted by the power crisis and constraints in importing purification and disinfection chemicals, including chlorine.
All essential health services have been severely impacted by critical shortages of medicine. There are ongoing stockouts of essential medicines affecting pregnant and lactating women and children, which are likely to continue for several months.
Learning has also been severely interrupted – many schools just re-opened following some of the longest pandemic-related school closures in the region – disrupting learning for 4.8 million children. School attendance rates have fallen dramatically and are likely to fall further with the halt in school meals – often the only source of nutritious food for many marginalized children.
The current crisis is exacerbating existing protection concerns and psychosocial issues among children, exposing them to numerous protection risks. Over 10,000 children are in institutions (poverty is the major driver for placement) and their conditions will be compromised as the crisis worsens and as additional families place their children in institutional care since they cannot afford to feed or educate them.
High inflation and shrinking fiscal space could mean that poverty doubles in the next 24 months, with 93 per cent of those below the poverty line in the rural and the estate sector. Sri Lanka’s social protection system is fragmented, and several programmes do not reach the most vulnerable, and many negative coping mechanisms have been reported including institutionalization of children, school absenteeism/drop-out, limited food intake, aggravated by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and current socio-economic and political crisis.
As the lead partner for child rights, child survival and development in Sri Lanka, UNICEF is collaborating with national government partners, other UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations and civil society organization (CSO) partners to meet the urgent needs of children.
In line with its Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action and the inter-agency Humanitarian Needs and Priorities Plan for Sri Lanka, UNICEF will (i) reach vulnerable children and women with essential services; (ii) ensure coherence between humanitarian and development programming, and (iii) scale up preparedness and early warning efforts to monitor the evolving situation. UNICEF Sri Lanka will ensure the delivery of life-saving assistance through public and private partnerships in the most equitable, sustainable, and effective way.
UNICEF aims to underpin existing social services to reach 2.8 million people and 1.7 million children. UNICEF leads the nutrition, education, protection, WASH and social protection sectors and plays a key role in the health sector. UNICEF is partnering with the Government, other UN agencies, and local partners to assess the situation and how the most vulnerable women and children are being impacted and will remain agile in defining where the most vulnerable children are located as the situation unfolds.
Priority interventions will include procuring and distributing life-saving supplies (maternal, neonatal, and nutritional items) in response to extensive stock outs and a deteriorating food security situation coupled with messaging and counselling for infant and young child feeding. UNICEF will also support the water supply sector given the lack of water purification supplies which threatens the availability of safe drinking water in urban and rural settings. UNICEF will also provide material and support to enable catch-up learning to all small, resource-poor, rural schools across Sri Lanka, as these children are at high risk of dropping out and have already missed significant periods of schooling. To safeguard children, UNICEF will work with partners to strengthen emergency case management services for the most vulnerable children and prevent and respond to family separation, including children with disabilities, through government and CSO partners. UNICEF will work with frontline workers, families, and youth to provide psychosocial support to help manage the stress and prevent violence in families. UNICEF will use cash or vouchers, depending on access to markets and availability of products, to support pregnant and lactating mothers, using existing systems where possible.
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.