Nilanthi Gunasekera, 49, holds the final handful of dried fish her family has as a reminder of Sri Lanka’s greatest economic crisis in decades in her outstretched palms.
She is one of the many people in Sri Lanka who have seen their level of life plummet to the point where they have to resort to drastic measures like going hungry, hoarding medicine, and using wood for cooking instead of gas.
Gunasekera, holding the fish bones in his hands, lamented, “Now fish is out of the reach of our family, and so is meat.” “We went without buying any meat or fish for two weeks. We have nothing else left to eat besides this protein.”
After suffering severe damage from the COVID-19 epidemic, rising oil prices, and the economic mismanagement of past governments, the island nation is experiencing its gravest crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.
Many people in Sri Lanka have fallen into poverty due to the country’s high rate of inflation, long lines at gas stations, and a lack of necessities like food and medicine, and it took months of protests on the streets to finally force out the previous president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in July.
The United Nations estimates that more than a quarter of the country’s 22 million people are currently in need of assistance to access sufficient, nutritious food.
However, substantial financial aid is still months away, so severe austerity measures are inevitable. As a result, few Sri Lankans will see improvements in their circumstances very soon.
Auto rickshaw driver Sivaraja Sanjeewan, age 31, said, “Now I bathe at a public well more regularly to save money.” He explained that the increased cost of food made it extremely difficult for him to pay water and power bills. Children were among those hardest hit by the economic crisis that followed, as parents scrambled to find supplies and authorities worried about growing risks of malnutrition.
This was compounded by the fact that the pandemic had already caused disruptions in education. Some parents have a difficult time scraping together the fare for their children’s school trips, while other parents are unable to afford to buy their children even the most basic of gifts, such as ice cream or candies.