They could not save their baby’: the human cost of Sri Lanka’s fuel crisis

It was, said the doctor, an avoidable delay that would haunt these parents for ever. When their two-year-old daughter first refused to eat, then began to go yellow with the signs of jaundice and then fell into a seizure, Kanchana and her husband, living in the Sri Lankan region of Haldummulla, knew she needed urgent medical care.

But they faced a terrible obstacle. Sri Lanka is in the grip of the worst economic crisis in its history, declaring bankruptcy and with no foreign reserves left to pay for imports. As a result, the country has been unable to afford necessary fuel and in recent weeks, supplies have all but dried up. As the girl’s father searched for hours on Sunday for fuel for his tuk-tuk to drive her to hospital, he was faced with one empty petrol station after another.

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