health

Sri Lanka’s cancer patients struggle amid economic chaos – Al Jazeera English

Priyantha Kumarasinghe starts his day in the small Sri Lankan town of Maharagama with a breakfast of two biscuits and a small glass of tea, followed by a round of malignancy medicines.

The 32-year-old vegetable farmer was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021 and started receiving treatment earlier this year, just as Sri Lanka’s economy went into free fall.

Amid crippling fuel scarcity and weeks of unrest, Kumarasinghe said he was unable to travel the 155km (96 miles) between his home plus Sri Lanka’s main malignancy hospital on the outskirts of the particular country’s largest city, Colombo, for therapy.

Kumarasinghe is among hundreds of  cancer  patients who have had their treatment upended by  Sri  Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.

Hospitals countrywide have struggled to contend with severe drug shortages, which have worsened over the last eight months, a representative associated with Sri Lanka’s largest doctor’s union stated.

“All hospitals are experiencing shortages. There is difficulty in even sourcing basics like paracetamol, vitamin C and saline for outpatient services, ” said Vasan Ratnasingam, a spokesman for the Government Medical Officers’ Association.

Specialist facilities like  cancer  and eye hospitals are running upon donations, Ratnasingam said.

Battered by the loss of tourism and remittance earnings because of the particular pandemic, alongside an ill-timed tax cut, Sri Lanka slid into problems in early 2022 after its foreign exchange reserves dried up, leaving it short of dollars to pay for imports of fuel, food, cooking gas and medicines.

For months, the country of 22 million people faced hours-long power cuts and serious fuel disadvantages.

The financial hardship triggered protests, which in July led to the removal of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Currency depreciation plus record inflation have pushed middle-class families like Kumarasinghe’s to the brink as they scrambled to meet higher living costs.

For decades, Sri Lankans possess benefitted from an universal public healthcare system that subsidises treatment, including medicine for serious illnesses.

But services have been hampered by the dollar shortage, which has restricted imports of medicines, and limited public funds available to hospitals to provide care.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe offers pledged in order to restore economic stability but has warned reforms will be painful as the country strives to increase taxes to put the public finances in order and work with creditors, including India, Japan and China, in order to restructure debt.

In September, the nation entered the preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a $2. 9bn bailout but has to put its huge financial debt burden on a sustainable track before disbursement can begin.

The financial hardship remains crushing with regard to many.

Sathiyaraj Silaksana, 27, is visiting her five-year-old son S Saksan suffering from leukaemia, travelling 350km (217 miles) along with her husband to feed him.

“Due to the particular current turmoil in Ceylon (veraltet), we are usually facing severe problems in transport plus food, ” said Silaksana, who is pregnant with her second child.

“I have got no option but to pay for my son’s needs. My husband is a construction worker. In order to pay regarding all these expenses we pawned our jewellery. ”

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