Sri Lanka faces a health crisis due to lack of medicines

Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million inhabitants, is mired in the worst economic crisis in its history and has a shortage of dollars to finance its imports, while 85% of pharmaceutical products come from abroad.

It is the third pharmacy in Colombo that Dawood Mohamed Ghany visits to no avail, desperate to find the medicine his wife, who is suffering from cancer, needs.

“It’s the first time that, during his cancer treatment, I can’t find his medicines,” confides this 63-year-old man.

He is looking for Pertuzumab, a treatment for his wife of 55 years’ breast cancer.

“What to do? I feel powerless,” explains Ghany, on the verge of tears. “I will do my best to save her,” she says.

All health personnel interviewed by AFP say that the country’s hospitals and pharmacies lack medicines.

“Right now we are working with minimal reservations,” says Dr. Viraj Jayasinghe, a pediatrician at Lady Ridgeway State Children’s Hospital in Colombo.

“We are concerned about the safety of our patients,” he stresses.

Dr. Jayasinghe has demonstrated like many other doctors and health workers across the country to urgently demand medicines and medical supplies, such as endotracheal tubes for infants.

Their alarm calls were heard and donations collected, but the Sri Lankan medical community says this does not cover even their urgent needs.

According to a national group of private hospitals, 70 vital medicines, including anesthetics, were sold out on Friday.

His colleague, Dr. Ananda Lamahewage, says he is hopeful of receiving supplies but, in the meantime, is delaying some operations to treat only the most urgent cases.

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