By KRISHAN FRANCIS and BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s prime minister says the United Nations has arranged a worldwide appeal to help the island nation cope with critical shortages of food, fuel and medicines, but the projected funds barely scratch the surface of the $6 billion it needs to stay afloat over the next six months. In a speech to Parliament, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says the U.N. seeks to provide $48 million in assistance over a four-month period. He asked Sri Lankans to be patient and united, adding that it will be tough to obtain essentials for the next three weeks. Sri Lanka is nearly bankrupt. Its foreign reserves are almost gone, which has limited imports and caused serious shortages of essential items.