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Study Reveals 20,000 to 30,000 Underage Street Children Begging Nationwide

A recent study conducted by Senior Professor Wasantha Athukorala from the Statistics and Data Studies Department at Peradeniya University has shed light on the alarming issue of underage street children begging across the country, estimating their numbers to be between 20,000 and 30,000.

Professor Athukorala conducted the study in Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, Ampara, and Kandy to provide authorities with insights into the current situation of underage street children nationwide.

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Professor Athukorala explained that the estimated figure was derived from informal discussions in these areas, drawing from previous surveys conducted by a specific non-governmental organization (NGO) in 2019. He noted that these surveys had identified approximately 15,000 underage street children across the country.

However, informal discussions in the aforementioned areas suggested that the number of underage street children may have doubled compared to the 2019 figure.

Professor Athukorala highlighted the absence of previous data on research, analysis, or projects conducted by any other organization or authority regarding underage street children and their outcomes as adults.

He further noted that the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this situation, leading to its growth.

These children are often seen near sacred places, and exploiting them for begging has become a lucrative business.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), Chanaka Udyakumara Amarasinghe, emphasized that using children for begging is a criminal offense. Inspector General of Police (IGP) Deshbandu Tennakoon acknowledged the challenge in taking action against child beggars due to existing legal obstacles, although there is the possibility of taking them into police custody.

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