Improvements in quality of life-Planters' Assn.
The Planters' Association of Ceylon [PA], the representative body of
the 23 Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs), says estate communities in
RPC estates have seen improvements in all areas of quality of life since
privatisation of plantation management in 1992. The Plantation Human
Development Trust (PHDT) that was also established in 1992 with
government, trade union and RPC representation, and is entrusted with
improving social welfare of estate populations in Sri Lanka, says all
quality of life indicators among estate populations have improved over
the past two decades.
"Since 1992, to date, we can confidently say that there has been a
marked improvement in all areas of quality of life among estate
communities, because of ongoing programmes to improve living standards
in RPC estates in all plantation regions.
To date, housing, health, sanitation, and estate infrastructure such
as supply of electricity, internal roads in RPC estates, have all been
improved with investments running into billions of rupees," said PA
Chairman Lalith Obeyesekere.
This claim is further supported by the latest data from the
Department of Census and Statistics which shows a significant
improvement in estate sector living conditions.
"Although the urban sector shows no significant reduction in poverty
since 2006/07 to 2009, the estate sector has reported an unprecedented
two third reduction of poverty," states the Department of Census and
Statistics in its preliminary Household Income and Expenditure Survey
New homes for estate families
While Sri Lanka's plantation communities have traditionally lived in
line rooms built by the British during the Colonial era, today, estate
families are moving to separate houses. Compared to the traditional line
rooms, individual housing units, for each family, are seen as promoting
a healthier lifestyle with more privacy and better sanitation
facilities. From 1992 to date, nearly 25,000 new housing units have been
built for estate families. In parallel with the ongoing housing
programme, a re-roofing programme to renovate damaged roofing of old
line houses is also taking place to improve living standards in line
houses until new housing units are built.
Better health and sanitation
Health standards among the estate population in RPC estates are being
improved. To date, over half ( 55%) of the estate families in RPC
estates have been provided with access to pipe borne water. Existing
toilet facilities have been upgraded and new toilet facilities have been
constructed. 53% of estate families, living in RPC managed estates, have
access to one toilet per family, or toilets that are shared among 3-4
families. This is a significant improvement in sanitation, compared to
the extremely limited toilet facilities previously available for estate
families living in crowed lines rooms.
In addition to existing medical services within estates, free medical
camps and de-worming programmes are also conducted among RPC estates. To
improve the health infrastructure in RPC estates, 220 motorcycles have
been provided to estate health staff and 98 ambulances have been
provided to key estates, through international donor funding.
Data from the PHDT shows continued improvements in health indicators
in RPC estates. Institutional child births in RPC estates have increased
from 60.8% in 1985 to 92% in 1996 to 98% in 2010. The PHDT says 97% of
expectant mothers registered for antenatal care before 22 weeks of
pregnancy in 2010 and immunisation of estate children are now almost
100% in RPC estates.
Infant and maternal mortality rates have reduced significantly, while
family planning and other related health services have greatly improved
in RPC estates.
A better future for children
The concept of Child Development Centres (CDC) has been introduced to
improve childcare and child nutrition. Around 1,550 CDCs have been
established in RPC estates across the country. These CDCs allow mothers
to leave children under the age of 5 years in the care of trained Child
Development Officers, while they go to work. The children, under the
supervision of Child Development Officers, are provided with proper
early childcare development. At present, 250 Child Development Officers
in RPC estates have successfully completed the National Diploma in Child
Development, Pre-School Education and Management conducted by the PHDT.
The CDCs are also used to introduce a change of diet to young
children and to educate mothers on how to feed and look after children
and infants. In addition, a number of separate programmes are ongoing to
target malnutrition including the provision of food items such as the
nutritional supplement 'Suwaposha,' which is being distributed to estate
communities in RPC estates, in collaboration with the National Food
Promotion Board of the Ministry of Agriculture. These items are
distributed through Estate Worker Housing Cooperative Societies. Under
the UNICEF Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Programme,
awareness is created about healthy eating, especially in RPC Estates in
Badulla, Hatton and Nuwara Eliya. So far the ECCD program has paved the
way to train 1,700 Community Facilitators among estate youth on ECCD.
These initiatives have helped address historically poor health and
nutrition indicators among plantation populations and are aimed at
changing plantation community food habits, by educating children,
mothers and youth, about healthy eating.
Education levels of estate populations have steadily improved over
the years, notes the PA. According to the Department of Census and
Statistics, school attendance, in the 5-20 year age group, in the estate
sector, was 74.5% in 2006/07.
This figure [5-19 year age group ] increased to 83.3% by 2009.
Although the share of estate population with no schooling was 15.8% in
2006/07 this population had shrunk, to 8.8%, by 2009/10. The share of
estate population that had passed G.C.E.(O/L) increased from 3.4% in
2006/07to 5.7% by 2009/10 and the share of G.C.E. (A/L) qualified and
above, increased from 1.7% in 2006/07 to 4.2% by 2009/10. Since 1992,
over 200 young men and women have entered university from RPC estates.
The PA noted that other quality of life indicators such as the
availability of essential facilities have also shown clear improvements
in the estate sector. Electricity was available to 62.3% of the estate
sector in 2006/07. Availability of electricity increased to 84.0% of the
estate sector by 2009. To improve mobility and access to services,
approximately 1,200 kms of internal roads on RPC estates have been
upgraded with an investment of Rs 1.2 Billion, out of the 3,950 kms
identified for improvement.