Millions of Sri Lankans are battling a calamitous decline in living standards, as they find themselves forced to skip meals, ration medicines and turn to firewood in place of cooking gas.
Hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, rising oil prices and economic mismanagement under previous governments, the island nation is in the throes of its starkest crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.
Rampant inflation, snaking fuel queues and shortages of essentials such as food and medicine have driven many Sri Lankans into poverty, while months of street protests deposed the previous president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in July.
More than a quarter of the population of 22 million is now struggling to secure adequate, nutritious food, the United Nations says.
As desperation grows, the government of President Ranil Wickremesinghe is seeking a multibillion-dollar bailout in talks with the International Monetary Fund and is tapping key allies, from India and Japan to the United States.
But major financial assistance is still months away, making tough austerity measures likely, so few Sri Lankans will see conditions improve soon.
As depleted reserves have dried up supplies of petrol, diesel and gas, lengthy fuel queues, sometimes persisting for days, have become a daily feature this year.
The shortages have brought a boom in demand for firewood.
Krishan Darshana told the Reuters news agency that he had joined his father in breaking up logs to sell as kindling after getting laid off from a job in construction during the crisis.
“It’s very hard work,” said the 25-year-old, who now makes do with a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits as the day’s only meal. “But what else can I do when there are no jobs for us?”