Regions with the highest rate of poverty in Sri Lanka are areas inhabited by Tamils, according to a study of the World Bank.
The regions come under the districts of Mannar, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi in the Northern Province; Batticaloa in the East and plantations in Badulla district (Uva Province) and Nuwara Eliya (Central Province). One Sinhala-dominated region the study has identified as having a high rate of poverty is the Monaragala district.
Mullaitivu, the poorest
Going by Sri Lanka’s national poverty line of about $1.50 per day (Purchasing Power Parity in 2005), the poverty headcount rates of Mullaitivu, Mannar and Kilinochchi are 28.8 per cent, 20.1 per cent and 12.7 per cent respectively.
If one were to apply the international poverty line of $2.5 per day, the figures in these three districts are 74.4 per cent, 60.9 per cent and 57.2 per cent respectively.
With respect to the estates, the poverty headcount rate is 10.9 per cent, as per the Sri Lanka’s national poverty line and this goes up to 50.6 per cent under the international poverty line.
Though the World Bank has not specifically given the figure of Batticaloa, a 2014 publication of the Department of Census and Statistics of the Sri Lankan government mentioned that the figure (as in 2012-2013) was 19.4 per cent.
As for the age profile of the poor in the North and East, the study points out that about 47 per cent of people living in poverty come under the group of below 25 years, compared to 40 per cent in other Provinces.
Lack of access to the labour market and high unemployment rates, particularly among the youth and among educated women, are the factors that have contributed to the prevalence of such high rates of poverty.
On the people in the estate sector, the World Bank’s report has said a large share of the population is “vulnerable to adverse shocks”.
Describing as worrisome the non-monetary indicators of health and nutrition in the estates, the document has pointed out that the estates have the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. “About 30 percent of children below 5 are underweight, nearly one in three babies born have low birth weight, and one-third of women of reproductive age are malnourished.”
The World Bank has called for the implementation of programmes aimed at improving market accessibility, incentives to promote entrepreneurship among educated youth and schemes to help ex-combatants and women-headed households. As for the estates, multi-sector interventions should be undertaken to improve nutrition outcomes, enhance job opportunities for the youth and prepare for a growing number of ageing estate workers, the report has added. (The Hindu)