UNICEF and CEPA Hold First Roundtable on Child Poverty

First Roundtable on Child Poverty

UNICEF Sri Lanka
UNICEF and CEPA Hold First Roundtable on Child Poverty
15 March 2019

Living in poverty can have extremely adverse impacts in one’s life. When it comes to children, experiencing poverty can lead to lifelong consequences; even short periods of deprivation can affect children’s long-term growth and development. And that has an impact in society as a whole. But how do we define poverty? Is it simply a matter of not having money? Or does it relate to not having access to quality housing, health services, education, and other important things for children? How many children in Sri Lanka are poor, and who and where are they? What can be done to support children living in poverty, or vulnerable to falling into it?

UNICEF is supporting the Government of Sri Lanka, particularly through a collaboration with the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS), who collects data and calculates poverty in Sri Lanka, to find the answers to those very important questions. Because poverty in childhood can have permanent consequences for children’s physical, cognitive and social development, identifying and addressing child poverty is an urgent matter.

Now, for the first time in history, nations around the world have agreed to end extreme child poverty (children living on less than PPP $1.90/day) by 2030, as part of the global Sustainable Development Goals - and to reduce by half the number of children living in poverty as defined by a national poverty line.  Currently, Sri Lanka does not measure child poverty. By supporting DCS, in partnership with the Center for Poverty Analysis (CEPA), a local think tank, and with Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), a renowned global institute that measures multidimensional poverty, UNICEF aims to help the Government of Sri Lanka to develop an appropriate method of measuring multidimensional child poverty – the first step towards eradicating it.

To that end, on March 7, 2019, the First Roundtable on Child Poverty was held in Colombo, when 25 participants from DCS, Ministries, University of Colombo, United Nations, World Bank, OPHI and think tanks such as CEPA and Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) came together to discuss how best to capture the experience of child poverty in the country. Talks about the definition of child poverty, the importance of the issue, how it has been measured around the world, and the realities in Sri Lanka informed the discussion on what dimensions and indicators are important to measure child poverty here, such as nutrition, education, parental care, living standards, etc. The discussion was rich, reflecting the quality of participants, and allowed us to jointly think of concrete next steps on the way forward, which include capacity building on child poverty measurement, a Child Poverty Conference, developing a child poverty measure for Sri Lanka, calculating child poverty and discussing implications for policymakers. No child should be suffering from deprivations that curtail her potential in life—this work aims to make sure this does not happen.