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13 February 2024 - News

Save the Children, alongside the USDA and Government of Sri Lanka continue to enhance literacy and nutrition for children in Sri Lanka

Phase II of Save the Children's US Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded 'Food for Education and Child Nutrition' programme was officially launched on the 13th of February 2024, with a collective commitment by Save the Children, H.E Julie Chung, U.S Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Education of Sri Lanka and representations from five key line ministries under the Government of Sri Lanka.

Colombo, February 13, 2024 – Save the Children is pleased to officially launch the second phase of its flagship ‘Food for Education and Children Nutrition Programme’ (known as the PALAM/A project) supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Since 2021, the child rights organisation has been working with the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to support and complement the existing National School Meal Programme (NSMP), prioritizing holistic goals to enhance children’s nutrition and literacy across the island.

In December 2022, 50% of families had to reduce their children’s food intake, as a direct hit of the ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

Shantha* is a daily wage earner, his daughter, Kithma* is 10, she receives the morning meal as part of this programme in Monaragala.

He says, “The school meal that my daughter receives is very crucial to us. In the past, I couldn’t send Kithma* to school because we didn’t have any food for her to take, and often, Kithma* used to feel weak at school without food. If I don’t have work, we tend to skip meals.”

Kithma's* family, like many others in Sri Lanka, face financial struggles, particularly amidst the ongoing economic crisis, which has left them without a stable income. Attending a school benefitting from the NSMP, supported by Save the Children, has been crucial for her. Every day, she receives a morning meal as part of this programme, consisting of four key commodities: canned Alaskan pink salmon, yellow split peas, fortified rice, and fortified vegetable oil, which supplements the existing NSMP.

For Kithma*, this meal isn't just sustenance; it's an opportunity for her to thrive. She expresses her love for attending school now, eagerly anticipating the morning meal. Not only has it improved her attendance, but it has also helped her focus during lessons and catch up on her schoolwork.

Beyond nourishment, Kithma* finds joy in school activities, such as playing with friends and exploring the school library, supported by Save the Children's literacy focused interventions. Through this holistic approach, Save the Children's programme not only addresses hunger but also fosters a conducive learning environment where children like Kithma* can realize their full potential.

Phase II of this programme was launched on the 13th of February, with a collective commitment by Save the Children, H.E Julie Chung, U.S Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Education of Sri Lanka and representations from five key line ministries under the Government of Sri Lanka, to further enhance the collaborative efforts needed to advance child nutrition and education in the country.

The launch event was marked by a ceremonial signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Save the Children and the five key line ministries under the Government of Sri Lanka, - The Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies, The Ministry of Agriculture and The Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and Social Empowerment.

"Save the Children's commitment to Sri Lanka's children remains unwavering. This renewed partnership with the USDA reaffirms our dedication to improving the lives of thousands of young learners like Kithma* and nurturing their potential," expressed Julian Chellappah, Country Director of Save the Children in Sri Lanka.

The second phase of this initiative will reach over 200,000 school children in 917 primary schools and over 20,000 children in 500 preschools in 8 districts in Sri Lanka, with the aim of reducing short-term hunger among school-age children while simultaneously enhancing student attendance and attentiveness in classrooms.

Today’s event builds on our incredible partnership with Save the Children and Sri Lankan counterparts over the past five years,” said U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung. “In 2018, USDA committed $27.5 million to help feed children in over 800 rural primary schools in Sri Lanka.  With this funding, we kept over 100,000 Sri Lankan children fed with salmon and yellow split peas we brought from America.  Besides nutrition, the project also works on raising literacy and sanitation standards in these rural schools, including construction of new latrines for students. Now, with the latest U.S. commitment of $32.5 million from USDA, the project will work towards providing much-needed nutrition to nearly 200,000 students – close to 20 percent of students receiving the national school meal program.”

Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha, the Minister of Education of Sri Lanka, underscores the importance of investing in children, saying, “Education stands at the forefront of our nation’s growth and the collaborative efforts of the USDA and Save the Children only propels our mission further, in providing a brighter, more promising future for our children.”  

To date, Save the Children’s USDA funded PALAM/A Project, in partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka has supported over 95,000 primary grade children in 852 schools across 7 districts in the country.



  • *Names changed to protect identities.
  • Save the Children Sri Lanka conducted this household survey across 2,308 households in nine districts: Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya, Monaragala, Badulla, Ratnapura, Trincomalee, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Colombo. The survey was conducted between 21 November and 17 December 2022 as a follow up to the first phase of the needs assessment in May/June 2022.


For media inquiries, please contact:

Sejani Wilegoda, Senior Manager – Media and Communications, Save the Children


About Save the Children

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In Sri Lanka and around the world, we do whatever it takes – every day and in times of crises – so children can fulfil their rights to a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and be protected from harm. We ensure children's unique needs are met and their voices heard. Together with children, families, and communities as well as supporters the world over we achieve lasting results for millions of children. Save the Children has been working in Sri Lanka since 1974, marking 50 years in 2024, contributing to both humanitarian and development needs across the country, on thematic areas of education, child protection, health and nutrition, vocational skills development, and child rights governance.