Insight On the Numbers of Street Children and Child Beggars in Sri Lanka

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Children are often regarded as the most valuable assets for the future of any nation, yet discussions surrounding street children and child beggars are commonplace in Sri Lanka. However, it’s important to note that the statistics commonly cited in these discussions may not always accurately portray the reality of the situation.

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Media outlets, including newspapers, play a significant role in shaping public opinion. Recently, they have reported figures on the number of street children and child beggars in Sri Lanka, notably claiming that around 30,000 children are begging in the streets. These figures have raised concerns and led to investigations into their accuracy. Our aim here is to provide a comprehensive fact-check on the origins and accuracy of these estimates.

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English newspapers like Ceylon Today and Daily Mirror also reported this in Sri Lanka. Those reports can be reached here and here


30,000 Street Children Hypothesis: Reports have cited a figure of 30,000 children currently begging in the streets of Sri Lanka, purportedly based on a survey conducted by Peradeniya University. However, the professor attributed these claims, Professor Wasantha Athukorala, clarified to us that this number is a hypothesis he and a few academics formulated based on informal interviews with residents of several cities in Sri Lanka. This hypothesis lacks formal backing through any survey or research conducted by Peradeniya University, rendering it speculative rather than empirically supported.

2019 Report’s Claim of 15,000 Street Children: One of the study’s reference points was a 2019 report suggesting the presence of 15,000 street children in Sri Lanka. However, this report also lacks clarity regarding the methodology used for estimation. Despite efforts to locate supporting research papers or surveys, no evidence has been found to shed light on how this figure was derived. Notably, Professor Athukorala and his team’s hypothesis was based on this claim, indicating a chain of potentially unsubstantiated assertions.

It is also essential to clarify the distinction between street children and children engaged in begging activities. While street children typically refer to those who live and work on the streets without any parental or guardian care, child begging refers explicitly to children engaging in begging activities.

NCPA Chairman’s Insights: Udayakumara Amarasinghe, a senior lecturer at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura and chairman of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) of Sri Lanka, has provided valuable insights into the matter. He states that the authority receives approximately three hundred complaints annually regarding child begging incidents, and appropriate actions are taken for each case. The number of begging-related complaints can be seen on the NCPA website. It can be reached here.  

While acknowledging that there could be a number of unreported cases of child begging, the chairman questions the improbability of the existence of 30,000 child beggars in the country, considering the vast difference from the number of reported cases handled by NCPA. 

Historical References: References to earlier estimates, such as the figure of 15,000 street children in reports from 2005 and 2006, remain unverifiable due to the lack of accessible methodology behind these estimations. Despite persisting in various reports and media articles over the years, including references made by a British parliamentary handsad in 2004 citing UNICEF’s estimate of 16,000 street children, no substantiating evidence from UNICEF has been found to support these claims. When we informally asked about this, the UNICEF – Sri Lanka Team said UNICEF had not made any such estimations about street children in Sri Lanka.

Pending Responses: Efforts to verify historical claims, including reaching out to relevant academics such as Professor Neranji Wijewardena regarding her work on estimates of street children, are ongoing. However, responses are pending at the time of this fact check.

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The claims regarding the number of street children and child beggars in Sri Lanka, particularly the assertion of 30,000 children begging in the streets, lack empirical support and are based on speculative hypotheses rather than formal surveys or research. While concerns regarding the welfare of vulnerable children are valid, it is crucial to rely on verified data and evidence-based research when addressing such issues. Efforts to clarify the origins and accuracy of these estimates should continue through transparent methodologies and collaborations between relevant authorities, academics, and organisations dedicated to child welfare in Sri Lanka.

This fact check aims to provide clarity amidst the proliferation of unsubstantiated claims. It emphasises the importance of evidence-based reporting and policymaking in addressing complex social issues such as child begging and street children in Sri Lanka.


Title: Insight On the Numbers of Street Children and Child Beggars in Sri Lanka

Fact Check By: Fact Crescendo Team 

Result: Missing Context

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