Poverty in Sri Lanka continues to be a growing problem, despite it being an exceptional country with regards to life expectancy, literacy rate and other social indicators. Almost half of Sri Lanka’s population live on under US$2 a day and nearly a quarter of the population live below the poverty line. Half of the population also consumes less than their recommended daily calorie intake; malnutrition affecting 29 percent of children. Recent floods, changes in rainfall, temperature patterns and droughts have added to Sri Lanka's problems and contributed to the country having one of the world’s highest rates of suicide.
In 2009, violence between the LTTE and government forces finally came to an end after almost three decades. The civil war deeply affected the Sri Lankan population; children being the most vulnerable have seen many of their rights impeded by poor economic circumstances. Tens of thousands of Sri Lankans were internally displaced as a result of the conflict. In addition the 2004 tsunami left 40,000 dead and many more homeless and in 2011 hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans were displaced as a result of massive flooding in the country's east.
It is estimated that in Sri Lanka, one out of every eight children is economically active. Often poverty forces families to make their children work; for example in tea plantations or as household help for rich families at home and abroad. An estimated 900,000 children aged five to seventeen engage in child labour activities. Almost ten per cent of these children work in dangerous conditions such as mines, with chemicals and pesticides or with dangerous machinery. Child labour is a common phenomenon among poor families: children are sent to work as a necessity to support their parents. Many of these children are not able to attend classes and do not receive basic education or adequate healthcare. Boys in rural areas are particularly affected.
Violence, alcoholism and drug abuse often becomes a very sad part of daily life for others. Children turn to begging, others to drugs and crime or are forced into child slavery; trafficked and prostituted by organised criminal gangs.
An estimated 340,000 children in Sri Lanka grow up without either one or both of their parents. Very often, poverty is cited as the main reason why children end up without parental care. Infants are often abandoned because poor mothers are not able to care for their child. The number of child headed households is a growing problem: many mothers who have to migrate to other areas of the country for work have young children who head up the household at an early age and care for their younger siblings. Due to the absence of their mother, these children are vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation and very often are not able to attend school.
Help is necessary to enact sustainable solutions for the future of Sri Lanka's children, families, and communities. Practical assistance that develops skills and will help build back people’s lives and livelihoods.