Sri Lanka is undergoing a fragile process of recovery following the bitter 26-year civil war between government forces and armed insurgents that came to an end in 2009. The final months of the conflict were particularly brutal, with attacks on hospitals and schools. Efforts to promote reconciliation between the majority Sinhalese population and the Tamil minority in the north and east have only met with limited success. Civil society organisations were not allowed to work freely till 2015. The new government has undertaken initiatives to allow non-governmental organisations to work and have access to conflict-affected areas.
The legacy of the conflict has had a significant effect on children growing up in Sri Lanka. Large numbers of children in the north and east were displaced and lived for years in camps before returning to their original homes after the end of the war. Today, many children are engaged in child labour and serve as heads of households. Child protection structures are underdeveloped and this systemic weakness leaves children and young people at high risk of sexual abuse and trafficking. Child marriage is a particular problem.
The recapture of previously rebel-held areas in the east and north of Sri Lanka has finally allowed large numbers of people to return to their homes. Even so, vital infrastructure elements in these areas such as schools and roads are still lacking. Natural disasters - most recently the extensive floods of 2016 - have caused further delays to the process of physical reconstruction of the country.
What we do
War Child Holland has been active in Sri Lanka since 2010, supporting local organisations to provide education and psychosocial support for children affected by the armed conflict.
War Child also works with local government and community-based authorities to develop and strengthen community systems that serve to support children. These partnerships ensure the sustainability of our interventions and help to protect children and young people from abuse, violence and sexual exploitation.