08/30/2022, 11.01
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Unicef warns children 'paying the highest price' of the economic crisis

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

Families cannot guarantee three meals a day and most do not know when they will have their next meal. According to the UN agency the same situation could occur in other South Asian countries. Save the Children and the US Department of Agriculture have sent 3,000 tonnes of food.



Colombo (AsiaNews) - Malnutrition among children in Sri Lanka is the highest in South Asia: according to UNICEF, it is in fact the poorest and most vulnerable children who are paying "the highest price" of the economic crisis.

More and more families are unable to provide three meals a day for their children because of the rising prices of basic foods, including rice. Most children skip dinner, sometimes breakfast, and do not know when they will be able to have their next meal. The 22 million inhabitants of Sri Lanka are under the grip of an unprecedented economic crisis: according to the World Bank, Sri Lanka is the fifth highest inflation country in the world after Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Turkey.

For Unicef, the Sri Lankan emergency is a warning to other South Asian countries that are on the brink of an economic crisis. The UN estimates that 50 per cent of Sri Lankan children are in need of some kind of humanitarian assistance. At the moment about 10,000 children are in institutions because families are unable to care for them, but the facilities do not provide the necessary support for child development. 

Unicef's South Asia Director, George Laryea-Adjei, after visiting the country is convinced that the emerging food insecurity has intensified the social problems already plaguing the island nation. The current situation will further promote malnutrition, poverty, disease and early deaths. Laryea-Adjei believes that 'children must be put at the centre of the solution while the country works to solve the crisis.

If the current trend continues, political and economic analysts have explained to AsiaNews that Sri Lankan children 'risk being oppressed' and their situation could worsen in the near future. It is therefore necessary for international organisations such as the UN and UNICEF to 'intervene' to invest in the resilience of Sri Lankans against the economic crisis.

The US, through the Department of Agriculture and in collaboration with Save the Children, donated 320 tonnes of peas to Sri Lankan children as part of a larger donation of 3,000 tonnes of food.

Due to the currency crisis that led to the default on the external debt, Sri Lanka announced in April this year that it would suspend repayment of the external debt amounting to about USD 7 billion. Another USD 25 billion of debt is due in 2026. The economic crisis has left millions of people struggling to buy not only food, but also medicine, fuel and other necessities.

(Photo Unicef/Laknath) 

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