Sri Lanka is in the midst of the worst socioeconomic crisis in its history, and the once robust healthcare system is nearing collapse, with patients at risk from power shortages, lack of medicines, and equipment shortages.
When Ruchika found out she was pregnant with her second child, in October 2021, she could not have imagined that she would find herself, hours before delivering her baby, in a crowded distribution queue, pleading for fuel to get to the hospital.
Pregnant women in Sri Lanka find themselves in a world that was unimaginable a few months ago. The crisis is critically undermining sexual and reproductive health services, including maternal healthcare and access to contraception, and services to prevent and respond to gender-based violence have also been compromised.
Ruchika made it to the hospital the day after harrowing wait for fuel, just in time to deliver her baby. But fuel was not her only concern. Two months before her due date, Ruchika heard that women were being asked to supply gloves, blades and other basic materials needed for safe childbirth when they visited the state hospital to deliver. “The hospital had run out and had no way to replenish their stocks,” she recalled.
She ended up not only worried about her own access to fuel, but also that of the hospital staff. “The week before my delivery, my husband asked about my doctor’s fuel status because we’d heard so many stories of doctors and nurses not being able to report to work because of the fuel crisis,” she said.
Ruchika’s family continues to struggle. When her four-and-a-halfyear-old daughter got sick, they had to go to six pharmacies to find the nebuliser she needed. And weeks after giving birth, Ruchika is well past the date she was due to get her stitches removed. She is waiting for her doctor to let her know when she can come in. Right now, the doctor is required to save the limited fuel he has to travel only when one of his other patients goes into active labour.
“The current economic crisis has far-reaching consequences for women and girls’ health, rights and dignity,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA. “Right now, our priority is to respond to their unique needs and safeguard their access to life-saving healthcare services and support.”
UNFPA is appealing for $10.7 million to urgently meet the sexual and reproductive health needs, and protection needs, of women and girls in Sri Lanka. This funding would go towards life-saving medicines, equipment and supplies, including supplies for the clinical management of rape and services for domestic violence survivors.
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