CERI’s present focus in Asia is concentrated in Sri Lanka, an island nation in the northern Indian Ocean off the southern coast of India. Before the devastating tsunami struck Sri Lanka in 2004, approximately five million people were living on less than $12 per person a month. Another three million people earned just $15 per person a month. The tsunami killed more than 38,000 people, and the struggling island nation faced even more widespread poverty. Immediately following the tsunami, Sri Lankan orphanages were filled beyond capacity. It was then that the Sri Lankan government approached CERI with a request to establish the country’s private foster care system.
Additionally, a 30-year civil war in the country’s northern and eastern regions left approximately 800,000 people displaced from their homes and thousands of children orphaned. Five years since the end of the war, Sri Lanka is focusing on long-term strategic and structural development challenges as it strives to transition to an upper middle income country. Despite success in poverty reduction (from 23% to 9% between 2002 and 2009) and increased per capita consumption among the bottom 40 percent of the population, significant development challenges still remain in Sri Lanka.
Pockets of poverty continue to exist, specifically in the districts of Batticaloa (in the Eastern Province), Jaffna (in the Northern Province), Moneragala (in Uva Province) and in the estate sector. An estimated 9 percent of Sri Lankans who are no longer classified as poor live within 20 percent of the poverty line and are, thus, vulnerable to shocks which could cause them to fall back into poverty. Climate-related hazards also pose a significant threat to economic and social development. Extreme variability of rainfall is the defining feature of the country’s climate, affecting monsoon-dependent areas in particular.
Since 2005, CERI has created programs that reunite or build families with family placement services (foster care), conduct trauma and loss counseling for children overcoming heartbreaking loss and hardships, and distribute microloans to ambitious entrepreneurs looking to break the cycles of poverty in their families and rural communities.