Geneva Palais briefing note on the launch of Sri Lanka's humanitarian action for children

This is a summary of what was said by Representative of UNICEF Sri Lanka, Christian Skoog – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing in the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

10 June 2022
Anuja
UNICEF/UN0649754/(File Photo)

GENEVA, 10 June 2022 – “Sri Lanka is currently facing its worst economic crisis in decades. As I speak, parents are spending long hours in queues, waiting for fuel, gas or kerosene, hungry and worrying about their children and families back home. Children are struggling to learn their lessons by candlelight, as prolonged power cuts continue.  Supermarket shelves are emptying out and prices for basic goods that families so direly depend on – like rice, lentils, milk and cooking oil - are soaring.

"In all these, children are the worst affected.

"UNICEF’s assessment is that 2.3 million - nearly one in two children in Sri Lanka - now require some form of emergency assistance, including nutrition, healthcare, clean drinking water, education, and mental health services. Without urgent action, the situation will only get worse, with far reaching consequences for children.

"Malnutrition is a potent threat against children. Many children are going to bed distressed and hungry. A UNICEF survey has revealed that 70% of households have reduced food consumption1. This is a disaster in waiting for Sri Lanka, which already has South Asia’s second highest rate of acute malnutrition among children under five.

"The education of 4.8 million children hangs in the balance. UNICEF’s teams on the ground have reported that school attendance has dramatically decreased, particularly in low-income areas. This is due to transport challenges for both teachers and children, power cuts, lack of stationery, among others.  More and more boys and girls are likely to drop out with the halt in school meals - often the only source of nutritious food for many marginalized children.

"Meanwhile, 25 essential medicines for children and pregnant women – including for use in intensive care unit, surgeries and treatment of life-threatening diseases - are expected to run out in the next two months; and this list is only growing.

"The current crisis is also raising serious protection concerns. There are currently over 10,000 children in institutional care in Sri Lanka, mainly as a result of poverty. Such institutions are not the best place for a child to grow in as they lack the bond of a family. With the current crisis, the conditions of children in institutional care is worsening and more families will take their children to these institutions as they cannot afford to feed or educate them.

"We are in a race against time. Without urgent assistance, the most vulnerable children will pay the highest price, and gains made over many years are at risk of being reversed - in some cases, permanently."

UNICEF is today appealing for US$ 25 million to among others:

  • Treat 56,000 children for severe acute malnutrition.  
  • Ensure 1.2 million children and women can access primary health care in UNICEF-supported facilities.  
  • Provide 1.5 million families with safe water for drinking and domestic needs.
  • Ensure 665,700 children access formal or non-formal education, including early learning. 
  • Provide 122,000 pregnant and lactating mothers with nutritious food through vouchers for 10 months.  

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Media contacts

Bismarck Swangin
Communication Chief
UNICEF Sri Lanka
Tel: +94777236548
Eliane Luthi
Regional Chief of Communication
UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia
Tel: +977-98010 30076

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. 

UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) works with UNICEF Country Offices in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to help to save children’s lives, defend their rights, and help them fulfil their potential. For more information about UNICEF’s work for children in South Asia, visit www.unicef.org/rosa and follow UNICEF ROSA on Twitter and Facebook.

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