Sri Lanka’s Department of Government Information said “there is no shortage of medicines and surgical equipment”, despite numerous reports of shortages in hospitals on the island.
The Ministry of Government Information last week tweeted a statement saying there was no shortage, listing equipment numbers in hospitals in Colombo, despite the government contacting the World Bank to obtain a US$10 million line of credit for the purchase of drugs to make up for shortages.
— Department of Government Information (@infodprtsl) April 12, 2022
Critics were quick to point out that the government was spreading false information.
Fake news: No shortage of medicine or surgical equipment – Department of Government Information pic.twitter.com/hL2kROyZDH
— Watchdog (@TeamWatchDog) April 12, 2022
Earlier this month, the Government Doctors Association (GMOA), one of Sri Lanka’s strongest unions, declared a medical crisis as doctors and hospitals reported widespread shortages of medicines.
The GMOA accused the government of jeopardizing Sri Lanka’s famous universal healthcare system, which gives all citizens access to free public healthcare. “The government and the Ministry of Health failed to prevent a complete collapse of the medical system,” he said.
Healthcare across the island has been impacted by the current economic crisis. However, health care in the North East has been chronically underfunded and increasingly militarized. Servicemen accused of war crimes run health clinics and dental clinics and take over the hospitals across the region. Hospitals in the northeast have always received support from the Tamil diaspora to help them stock up with vital equipment.
Sri Lanka owes $7 billion in debt and interest payments for this year, with $1 billion due in July. The country’s dire financial situation prevented the island from paying for imports, including fuel, milk and paper. Last month, Sri Lanka announced it would start talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to seek financial assistance to help resolve the crisis.
New Finance Minister Ali Sabry, who resigned 24 hours after his appointment, resumed his duties last week and announced that the island was seeking around $3 billion from the IMF to support its balance of funds. payments over the next three years. years.
Sri Lankan officials are due to begin talks with the IMF on April 18.
Feminist groups, mainly from the Northeast, have warned against IMF bailoutsciting that historically IMF debt restructuring involves austerity measures that will exacerbate existing inequalities.
“It is the wealth accumulated by exploiting women’s labor that has been wasted. No one is held accountable for this loss. Instead, once again, women are being forced to bear the brunt of a crisis economic,” the groups said.
Sri Lanka’s lack of foreign exchange reserves has had a devastating impact on the availability of medicines. More than 85% of pharmaceutical products in the country are imported and paid for in US dollars. If dollars are not available, drugs cannot be purchased. Jhe Sri Lanka Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry warned last month that 5% of drugs were out of stock and the problem was likely to get worse.