There are daily power outages, a critical shortage of life-saving medicine, and basic food staples such as rice and milk are hard to come by.
A perfect storm of problems led to this situation: multiple foreign loans from countries such as China, years of government borrowing, tax cuts and COVID-19.
Sri Lanka can’t pay to import basic supplies because of its huge debts.
Economists say a government decision last year to ban chemical fertiliser and make Sri Lanka the first country to farm organic-only was disastrous. It triggered inflation and crushed Sri Lankan exports of tea and rubber.
It leaves everyday Sri Lankans like Mr Karunasinghe with an impossible choice.
“My earnings aren’t enough to live off now. A cup of tea is 100 rupees. So, if I earn 2,000 rupees a day, then almost all of that is spent on feeding my family.”
Waiting from sunrise to sunset for precious fuel
A few hours after the street vendors start work, queues at fuel stations start building up.
Some people are trying to refuel their vehicles, while others wait up to 12 hours a day to fill up gas cylinders for cooking.
These conditions have had heartbreaking consequences.
Rani Chandra Pereira’s husband, Rechard, is one of at least seven people who have died in line while waiting for fuel.
“He used to stay in queues for hours to get fuel every day because his livelihood was driving a rickshaw,” she says.
“He went to the petrol shed to pump petrol, he waited there for one hour in the hot sun and once he pumped petrol he crossed the road and fell on the road.
“He was dead by the time he got to the hospital.”
Mrs Pereira says her husband had no previous illnesses. She blames the government for his death.
“The past way of life was much better, including the time of Sri Lanka’s civil war but, lately, everything has become a problem in the country,” she says.
In 2019, the World Bank ranked Sri Lanka as a middle-income nation. It had overcome a civil war and a terror attack to become the envy of South Asia with its major facilities.
So citizens largely aren’t used to the conditions they’re now living in.
But forecasts show the fuel shortage is only going to get worse: diesel could run out by April.
“I hope what happened to me, doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Mrs Pereira says.
Classes by candlelight, with no paper for students to write on
In the afternoon, a local primary school is trying to keep classes going without power or paper.
“We have times where we lose electricity, but there’s no point scolding the government,” says Achala Samanamali Munusinghe, a grandmother of students at the school.
“We go ahead with our children’s education at least, in candlelight, and adjust accordingly so we don’t jeopardise the children’s education.”
The other essential service that’s deteriorating is the medical system. Sri Lanka’s peak medical body has been warning that a shortage of medicine will cause “catastrophic deaths” if it isn’t addressed soon.
Unlike many Sri Lankans, Ms Munusinghe isn’t angry. She’s just resigned to her new living conditions.
“Politically, we also voted for the present government but, obviously, it has gone wrong,” she says.
“We all need to get together and get a strategy for the future of the country and our children and develop the country as soon as possible.”
With the economy hanging by a thread, political stability is crumbling too
Sri Lanka’s crisis is both economic and political.
Economists say that government mismanagement is partly to blame, but politicians can’t agree on how to move forward.
The country is controlled by the powerful Rajapaksa family, a dynasty that has been prominent in politics and the business sector for years.
Sri Lanka’s two most powerful positions — president and prime minister — are held by brothers Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Both leaders have said they are not responsible for the crisis.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa said last month the major problem was a lack of earnings from tourism and foreign employment, thanks to the pandemic.
“Debts taken by previous governments have to be repaid, with interest. These problems did not occur due to a fault of mine or the government,” he said.
Every night, protesters continue chanting until the early hours of the morning, without any signs they’ll calm down before their demands are met.
They are spurred on by constant updates on the latest product or service that is getting more difficult to access. There are fears things could get much worse.
Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister has warned that the country would need about $3 billion in external assistance over the next six months to help restore essential items.
Despite government resistance to get help from the International Monetary Fund earlier this year, talks are now starting to negotiate a bailout.
Dr De Silva says countries such as Australia can help financially and put pressure on the Sri Lankan government to act.
Sri Lanka has requested Australia send 5,000 dairy cattle to help with the milk shortage and the Australian government has offered $2.5 million for immediate food relief.
“Australia can assert pressure to the sitting government that they need to sit together and find a solution to this problem,” Dr De Silva said.
“On the economic side … Australian investors could set up factories here, buy into existing tourist assets here.
“Colombo’s port city could see opportunities for tech investments or even renewable energy. There are so many opportunities here.”
Some analysts call the sustained and growing protest movement in Sri Lanka “Asia’s Arab Spring”, after the revolutionary movement in the Middle East that toppled governments and led to systemic change.
Young people make up a quarter of Sri Lanka’s population and they’re largely the ones on the streets demanding that level of change.
Even as the power goes out at night, protesters hope there’ll be light for her generation.
“What’s going to happen when this looting and plundering is over and we’re stuck here with the carcass of what’s being left behind?” Ms D’Almeida says.
“We can’t expect the institutions that got us here to get us out of this mess.”