With Sri Lanka unable to pay for key imports and prices of everything from dal to fish to milk soaring, the United Nations has said that almost 5 million citizens are skipping meals, as well as selling possessions like jewellery in order to eat. Among them are an estimated 56,000 severely malnourished children.
Food insecurity was compounded by a failed ban on chemical fertilisers last year that reduced agricultural production by 50 per cent.
Community kitchens are popping up in Colombo and beyond, giving out free food, but preparing it is another major problem. Cooking gas has also become scarce, so many use firewood at home instead. There have been several reports of people collapsing and dying as they have lined up for hours in scorching heat to try to re-fill cylinders with gas or kerosene.
Fuel running dry
Motorists have for months been queueing for petrol and diesel, often overnight and in lines kilometres long. Among them are more than half a million three-wheeler drivers. According to news reports, there have been 10 deaths in the queues as people wait for 12 hours or more in their vehicles trying to fill up.
Prices are also at all-time highs as stocks run low. A trickle of fuel has arrived in recent weeks thanks to a $US4 billion ($5.8 billion) credit line with India but the last shipment under that deal turned up last week.
Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara said earlier this week that 40,000 megatons of petrol was arriving on Thursday and a limited amount would be distributed in the following two days. But Wickremesinghe admits that resolving fuel shortages “will take some time” because Sri Lanka can’t secure a monthly…