Documentation of UNICEF Sri Lanka Country Office Response to the Economic Crisis

In early 2022, Sri Lanka faced an unprecedented economic and multi-dimensional crisis, worsened by its vulnerable economy recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Bank (Development Update, April 2023), Sri Lanka’s GDP shrank by 7.8% in 2022 and was expected to further contract by 4.2% in 2023. This crisis doubled the country’s poverty rate, soaring from 13.1% in 2021 to 25% in 2022, affecting an additional 2.5 million people.

The crisis hit households hard, with annual average inflation reaching 46.4% in 2022. The uncertain political and economic situation, coupled with limited access to essential goods and services, resulted in various hardships, including health services suffering from medicine shortages, fuel scarcity, and prolonged power cuts affecting critical medical treatments.

Families struggled daily to afford nutritious food and access vital services like health, nutrition, education, child protection, water, sanitation, hygiene, and social protection. The economic, fuel, and food crisis had the harshest impact on the poorest, most marginalised, and vulnerable populations.

In this context, UNICEF has played a crucial role in supporting the Sri Lankan government and affected families through various initiatives. The Evaluation, Impact, and Learning unit in the Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) is undertaking a documentation effort to capture UNICEF’s ongoing response to the economic crisis in Sri Lanka. This documentation aims to include UNICEF’s response strategies, highlighting best practices, recognizing the challenges faced, and drawing valuable lessons from this experience.

Research team

Ganga Tilakaratna
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Lakshila Wanigasinghe
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UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA)