Australian cricketers have donated their prize money to support children in cash-strapped Sri Lanka.
Cricket Australia said on Thursday that its team donated prize money from the recent tour of Sri Lanka “to support children and families impacted by the nation's worst economic crisis in decades.”
It said the donation will go to the Australia office of UNICEF to support nutrition, healthcare, safe drinking water, education and mental health services of Sri Lankan children.
The Australian cricket team toured Sri Lanka last month, the first time since 2016, and won the T20 series by 2-1. Sri Lanka won the ODI series 3-2 and the Test series ended in a 1-1 draw.
The Aussies are donating around $32,000.
The South Asian Island nation has been under a state of emergency several times since April, when mass protests started against the government’s handling of the economy.
Crippled by a shortage of foreign exchange reserves after the collapse of its tourism-dependent economy, the country of 22 million people has defaulted on all its foreign debt.
It has been unable to pay for food, fuel, and other essentials, with a fuel shortage leading to prolonged daily power cuts. Schools have been closed and state employees asked to work from home.
“Children are at the heart of this crisis. Families are struggling to find enough food. As public transport is cut, children are missing out on both an education and access to school meals, placing them at greater risk of being pushed into child labor,” UNICEF said.
“2.3 million children are in need,” it added.
The Sri Lankan government is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package, but no deal has been struck yet.
According to UNICEF, electricity is cut for up to 13 hours daily.
“Tens of thousands of people are being forced to queue for hours for fuel,” it said.
Quoting the World Bank figures, it said around 11.7% of people in Sri Lanka are living below the poverty line, earning less than $3.20 per day.
“This crisis is really pushing families to their limits,” said Bismarck Swangin, UNICEF Sri Lanka spokesperson.