From left: Department of Probation and Child Care Services Commissioner Thanuja Dissanayake, Women and Child Affairs Ministry Secretary Neil Bandara Hapuhinne and Department of Probation and Child Care Services Senior Probation Officer Nirmali Perera
- Women and Child Affairs Ministry estimates malnutrition rate could be well over 20% amidst the worst economic crisis
- Reveals 127,000 of 570,000 kids below five years are malnourished as of mid-2021
- SL’s poverty level increases to 12%, implies more complexities in future
- Over 26,000 children below 18-years reach out for assistance
- Ministry launches new program titled ‘Athwela’ tomorrow to support families
- Department of Probation and Child Care Services reveals an uptick in child sexual abuse and harassment cases
By Charumini de Silva
The Government yesterday called on local and foreign donors to help tackle the fast-spreading malnutrition among children, noting the undernourishment rate could be well over 20% given the ongoing economic crisis.
The Women and Child Affairs Ministry pointed out that there are 127,000 malnourished children among a total of 570,000 kids below the age of five as of mid-2021.
“At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation was bad, but now given the economic crisis, the circumstances are far worse,” Women and Child Affairs Ministry Secretary Neil Bandara Hapuhinne told journalists yesterday.
Noting that malnutrition at that time was around 20%, he estimated the current numbers would have increased by several folds with the full impact of the worsening economic crisis.
Hapuhinne also said they used to get Rs. 30 per meal for a child at the peak of the COVID pandemic and it was later increased to Rs. 70. However, considering the skyrocketing food prices, the Ministry had submitted a Cabinet paper to increase the meal allowance price per child to at least Rs. 100. It was pointed out that international donors such as UNICEF, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have pledged support but urged further assistance from individual and corporate donors to feed the several hundred thousand children impacted by malnutrition.
The Department of Probation and Child Care Services, Commissioner Thanuja Dissanayake warned Sri Lanka’s poverty level has increased to 12%, implying that the complexities and difficulties faced by public will further get increased in going forward.
“Although we receive aids or not, the situation is going to get worse,” she added. Local and foreign companies or individuals with a pure intention can also become sponsoring parents to one or several kids who lack basic needs such as nutrition, education, healthcare and housing.
As per the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, a total of 26,336 children below 18 years have reached out for assistance from 25 districts. The Ministry Secretary also said they will launch an initiative titled ‘Athwela’ to support the family relief program tomorrow at the Ministry premises in Sethsiripaya.
The Department of Probation and Child Care Services Senior Probation Officer Nirmali Perera warned that the sexual abuse and harassment of children has significantly increased as they were exposed to remote learning methods due to the COVID pandemic and fuel crisis.
“Children were exposed to the internet significantly during the past one and half years as schools and tuition classes resorted to online teaching methods amidst the COVID pandemic and now due to fuel crisis,” she added.
She called on all citizens not to further victimise children that had already gone through such traumatic situations, noting that there are many instances where even schools have expelled such kids. “These actions will only further deprive children of divulging the sexual abuse and harassment they endure,” she added.
Despite having two separate units at Sri Lanka Police and the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, Dissanayake said they find it difficult to trace perpetrators as they conduct these rackets very secretively.