Child protection

Details about child protection program of UNICEF Sri lanka

New born infant
UNICEF/SriLanka/S Noorani

The Challenge

Children of all ages have the fundamental right to live, learn and grow without fear of violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination. A robust child protection system ensures this right is available to all children.

UNICEF is working with  partners to strengthen the child protection system at the national, regional and community level so that children can thrive within supportive family and community environments that protect them, and provide them with safe and equal access to important services.

Social and cultural norms that tolerate emotional, physical and sexual violence against children exist throughout Sri Lanka. Further, parents, teachers and children are often unaware of how to access and utilize child protection services even if a violation is experienced. A lack of coordination at the national, district and divisional levels has made it difficult to weave important child protection principles into the work of other connected  sectors such as health, education, social protection and justice.

To address these challenges , the quality and delivery of child protection services needs improvements in the following areas:

  • More child protection personnel need to be urgently hired and trained to meet demand.
  • Where resources do exist, they need to be channeled towards greater engagement with children, families and schools to help  change attitudes and social norms.
  • Stakeholders need more support in developing preventive measures and much remains to be done to assist children that have already been harmed.

Most importantly, Sri Lanka lacks a national child protection framework. This means that well-meaning stakeholders at every level lack nationally accepted guidelines and a defined hierarchy within which to carry out their tasks. To make matters more challenging,  insufficient evidence and data make it hard for policymakers to assess and react to challenges on the ground.

Children with disabilities are at greater risk. Essential services for children with physical or mental disabilities are either unaffordable in many areas or absent altogether. Several communities lack the ability to identify and respond early to the needs of these children, and do not have suitable parental support schemes to provide the type of safety net that they and their families need.

The Solution

Over the past three decades, UNICEF has been working with the Sri Lankan government to strengthen the child protection system and has played a central role in policy formulation and strategic planning. We  also provides technical and financial support in this critical area.

UNICEF works with local and international partners to resource, invigorate and coordinate child protection services across the country. With the ambition of creating a strong, capable and coordinated response to end all forms of violence against children, UNICEF is working to:

  •  improve the financial and human resource capacities of government agencies, nongovernment partners and communities on the ground so that all parties are in a better position to prevent and respond to instances of child abuse, neglect or exploitation.
  • enhance the collection and collation of child protection data nationwide
  • improve planning and budgeting to address legal loopholes, and streamline policies, roles and accountabilities that apply to all players at every level.
  • build the capacity of relevant government partners, preparing them to lead and assisting them in the development and roll out of pilot projects in select districts with a view towards national rollout.

UNICEF also partners with civil society and local communities to change attitudes and norms surrounding corporal punishment and other harmful traditional practices in communities and schools. New challenges, particularly in the realm of online safety and abuse, will also be prioritized moving forward.

Across all areas, UNICEF helps to bolster advocacy and public engagement efforts to increase knowledge and understanding around the importance of protecting child rights  and we will continue to work towards bringing in more financial resources to drive child protection reforms, including new policy, strategy and services.


Everything we do at UNICEF, from planning to execution, is grounded in empirical data, independent evaluation, rigorous research and thoughtful analysis. This information is gathered with the help of our own staff and the help of our network of partners in communities around the country.

UNICEF supports research and uses it to inform every decision we make. We rely on hard evidence to assess any situation on the ground, and we use these findings to drive programs, policies and initiatives.

If you would like to learn more about Child Protection in Sri Lanka, please have a look at the resources below.

For every child, #ENDViolence campaign


Watch our three powerful #ENDViolence films to learn more about how violence is impacting children in Sri Lanka, and take action