The UN standard measures poverty as an income of less thanUS$2.50 a day about Rs 400, while Sri Lanka has a lower measure around Rs.139 per day. Under that measurement only 4.1 percent of the population is below the poverty line.
Senior officials of the Sri Lanka Government, including Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajith Coomaraswamy, have urged that the poverty measurement be brought up to international standards.
The living standards of those living just above the poverty line are closer to those of the poor than those living above $2.50 per day, it said.
Sri Lanka is currently ranked ‘66th out of 113’ on the Global Food Security Index, while the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 4.1 million out of the 21 million population (over 25 per cent) do not have sufficient food to maintain healthy lives, the report said. Inequality is also rising, notably between the densely populated areas in the Western Province and the rest of the country.
The share of total household income of the poorest fifth of the population was 4.8 per cent in 2016.
The UN also said that the proportion of employed people living below the poverty line in the conflict-affected North and East remains high, indicating a need for sustained attention to small economic engagement and market development in particular to meet the specific needs of women.
In general, women-headed households face specific vulnerabilities, compounded by intersecting forms of discrimination that result in a lack of access to resources, skills and livelihoods, income-generating opportunities and social welfare benefits, and the denial of land rights, the UN said.
Recent studies have also shown that many babies are born underweight and stunting due to poor nutrition affects 18 per cent of children and that affects both their physical and mental abilities.