COLOMBO: Doctors in Sri Lanka warned on Sunday that they were running out of life-saving drugs and that the island nation’s economic crisis was threatening to kill more people than the coronavirus pandemic.
Weeks of power outages and severe shortages of food, fuel, and pharmaceuticals have wreaked havoc on Sri Lanka, which is experiencing its worst economic downturn since 1948.
According to the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA), all hospitals in the country now lack access to imported medical equipment and essential drugs.
Several facilities have already halted routine surgeries due to a dangerous shortage of anaesthetics, but the SLMA warned that even emergency procedures may be impossible to perform soon.
“We are forced to make extremely difficult decisions. We must decide who will receive treatment and who will not “The group said on Sunday that they had sent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa a letter warning him about the situation a few days before.
“The casualties will be far worse than the pandemic if supplies are not restored within days.”
Large protests calling for Rajapaksa’s resignation have erupted as public outrage over the crisis grows.
Thousands of people braved the rain for a second day to protest outside the leader’s seafront office in Colombo’s capital.
On Saturday, business leaders joined demands for the president to resign, claiming that the island’s persistent fuel shortages had caused their enterprises to lose money.
Rajapaksa’s administration is seeking an IMF bailout to assist the country escape the crisis, which has seen food prices spike and the local currency lose a third of its value in the last month.
Finance ministry officials have suggested sovereign bond-holders and other creditors may have to take a haircut as Colombo looks to restructure its debt.
On Friday, Ali Sabry, the island’s new finance minister, told parliament that the IMF will provide $3 billion in support for the island’s balance of payments over the next three years.
Sri Lanka is struggling to service its $51 billion foreign debt due to a critical lack of foreign currency, with the pandemic jeopardising vital revenue from tourism and remittances.
Government mismanagement, years of accumulated debt, and ill-advised tax cuts, according to economists, have exacerbated Sri Lanka’s crisis.