Sri Lanka

UNICEF Sri Lanka Humanitarian Situation Report #1 (Economic Crisis), 1 January to 30 June 2022



  • Sri Lanka is enduring a major economic, energy and political crisis with millions of citizens in desperate need of assistance.

  • All children in Sri Lanka are at the heart of the crisis due to interrupted services and needs in education, protection, health, nutrition, social protection and water, sanitation and hygiene

  • UNICEF is procuring 3,630 cartons of BP-100 to treat children with severe acute malnutrition.

  • More than 3,000 people connected to rural water supply schemes have received access to safe drinking water.

  • Over 200,000 secondary students in Northern and Eastern provinces benefitted from psychosocial support assistance through teachers trained by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education.

  • Severe fuel shortage is hindering timely delivery of lifesaving assistance to children. UNICEF is working closely with government and non-government partners to find practical, innovative solutions to reach children in need.

Funding Overview and Partnerships

UNICEF has appealed for USD 25 million to provide timely life-saving services for women and children affected by the worsening economic crisis in Sri Lanka. UNICEF launched the Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) on 10 June 2022 along with an inter-agency Humanitarian Needs and Priorities (HNP) appeal for Sri Lanka. UNICEF expresses its sincere gratitude to public and private donors for the US$ 4.63 million received, however an 82% funding gap remains.

Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs

All children in Sri Lanka are severely affected by the worsening economic and political crises. Persistent fiscal deficits, severe depletion of foreign reserves and political instability mean families are enduring daily struggles to afford nutritious food and access lifesaving services including health, nutrition, education, child protection, water and social protection. The fuel crisis has brought life to a standstill with the majority of crucial services halted and only essential services operating since 28 June 2022. With no substantial volume of fuel arrving in the country, day-long queues are continuing with no end in sight.

On 9 July 2022, an unprecedented number of Sri Lankans gathered in Colombo and across the island,, unanimously demanding for the resignation of the President and the Prime Minister. Continued protests and clashes with law enforcement authorities for over 6 days resulted in one death and 184 people hospitalized with injuries. In the face of such massive public pressure, the president of Sri Lanka left the country and submitted his resignation on 14 July 2022. The prime minister assumed duties as the Acting President of the country and subsequently sworn in as the 8 th President of Sri Lanka elected through a Parliamentary election on 20 July 2022.

Protests continue, demanding the resignation of the new President and an all-party interim government and elections within six months. Despite a new President and Cabinet of Ministers in place, the country continues to face daunting political instability, public unrest and economic crisis. Sri Lanka has been under a state of emergency since 17 July 2022 which empowers the military to detain people, limit public gatherings and search private property to maintain national security. During early hours of 22 July 2022, security forces razed the main anti-government protest camp near the entrance to the Presidential Secretariat triggering concern by international community and human rights groups.

Given the severe fuel shortages, economic and political crises, many essential services for children and women are functioning with very limited capacity. UNICEF’s telephone survey in April 2022 revealed the income of 73 per cent of households was negatively impacted forcing families to adapt negative coping mechanisms (borrowing, pawning etc) and resulted in families having less to invest in children’s health and education.

The Maternal and Child Health Programme is affected by the fuel crisis leading to late presentation of patients with medical emergencies including childbirth to hospitals, resulting in serious consequences including home deliveries.
Challenges in transport for health staff are affecting hospital and field health services including immunization. Over 149 vital medicines, 2,700 essential surgical consumables and 250 regular laboratory items are out of stock in the health institutions. Urgent measures are needed to maintain essential health services. The current economic crisis that exacerbates food insecurity will contribute to already alarming malnutrition rates in the country. The health system requires external assistance to treat children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and there is an acute shortage of therapeutic food (BP-100) to treat under five children with SAM. Additionally, the micronutrients given for infant and young children to prevent micronutrient deficiencies have been out of stock for many months.

Due to reduced livelihoods and household income coupled with long waits in queues to buy essential supplies (fuel, cooking gas etc) by parents, children are being neglected and at risk of protection issues at home. In addition, child protection service provision is constrained due to severe fuel crisis. Field visits by the existing service providers are extremely limited due to fuel shortages. Learning losses and lack of education opportunities are causing significant levels of mental health and psychosocial issues amount children, adolescents and youth in the country. The ongoing youth uprising and protests against political instability are also contributing to unrest and despair among young people.