Child survival & development

The survival and healthy growth and development of children is fundamental to UNICEF’s work.

Young girl in a remote village that is hard to access

The Challenge

Health and nutrition are the fundamental building blocks of children’s lives and their growth into healthy and productive adults.

Sri Lanka can be proud of its achievements in this area. Immunization coverage is now universal, under-five mortality rates are in decline, and access to safe water and improved sanitation facilities has improved nationwide. However, many gaps still exist and much work remains to be done to achieve an environment in which all children can be guaranteed good health and rapid development in line with the standards set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). 

The quality and access to health and hygiene services remain uneven. Poorer areas sometimes lack the essential infrastructure and basic knowledge needed to maintain acceptable standards. The triple burden of malnutrition, obesity and anemia are a consistent cause of concern in young children and pregnant mothers. Parents and teachers lack the knowledge of health and nutrition to pass on as critical life skills. Water, sanitation and hygiene services (WASH) are unevenly distributed and the quality of these services can vary considerably, in many instances not living up to the benchmarks set by the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). These shortcomings put young children at risk of infection and disease and, as they grow into adolescents, create potential issues of privacy and security, particularly for girls. A concerted effort to raise awareness and sensitivity surrounding sexual and reproductive health is also a priority.

Children with disabilities must be given special attention. Early identification and response services at home and in health institutions are lacking, as are adequate parental support schemes. Knowledge-building and specific services that address the unique needs of these children must be prioritized.

In general, improvements can be made in coordinating and streamlining the efforts of all stakeholders nationwide, so that resources, knowledge and responsibilities can be distributed equally and efficiently.

Finally, it is an overarching ambition to increase the involvement of children, especially adolescents, in high-level forums that will allow them to voice their concerns regarding health, nutrition and WASH and to drive change within their communities and for the nation.

The Solution

Broadly speaking, UNICEF will provide technical and financial support to key government Ministries in designing, piloting and assessing programs that seek to:

  1. Reduce neonatal mortality and morbidity;
  2. Address maternal and childhood malnutrition;
  3. Increase access to comprehensive quality early learning, care and development services;
  4. Support efforts to create and sustain urgency for national action on early identification of disabilities
  5. Improve child friendly WASH and capacity of relevant duty bearers
  6. Provide intervention services, focusing on the most deprived children and their families.

UNICEF will work with government and non-government partners to ensure that children everywhere have equal access to health and hygiene services. Special emphasis will be placed on parts of the country that are especially underserved and that host the most vulnerable populations. At the same time, the knowledge of parents, teachers and service providers will be bolstered so that these mentors can pass on important information about health and hygiene to their children. Children with disabilities will be recognized for their unique needs and addressed specifically.

UNICEF will lead an effort, in conjunction with key ministries, to coordinate and streamline the efforts of government and non-government partners to ensure that resources and approaches are aligned and optimized.


Everything we do at UNICEF, from planning to execution, is grounded in empirical data, independent evaluation, rigorous research and thoughtful analyses. This information is gathered with the help of our own staff and the help of our 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 survival and development in Sri Lanka, please have a look at the resources below.

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