“Cooking gas cylinder prices have almost doubled and we cannot afford it anymore,” says Niluka Dilrukshi. The 31 year-old mother-of-four has always cooked with gas to prepare food for her family, but now says firewood is her only option.

“I used to provide fish and vegetables daily to my children. Now we are giving them one vegetable with rice,” she says. “Earlier we used to have three meals a day, now sometimes we can afford only two.”

Mrs Dilrukshi and her family live in a suburb of Colombo, in Sri Lanka. Her husband is a day-wage labourer but the soaring cost of essential items, particularly food, means they are suddenly struggling to make ends meet.

Over the past four months, the price of a standard cooking gas cylinder has shot up from $7.50 to $13.25 – an increase of around 85%.

Sri Lanka, an island nation of 22 million people, is facing an unprecedented economic crisis. Its foreign exchange reserves dropped to around $1.6bn by the end of November, only enough to pay for just a few weeks of imports.

As a result, the government has been forced to restrict the import of several essential commodities – including food items – in a desperate bid to hang on to its vital dollar reserves. This move, combined with increasing fuel and freight costs, has pushed the price of essentials such as milk powder and rice much higher.