Following an appeal by bishops, supplies of life-saving oxygen have started to reach the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Though initial relief, coordinated by National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) and assisted by aid agency CAFOD, arrived in the state capital Manaus last week, church leaders say more is urgently needed.
Sister Irene Lopes of REPAM (the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network) called all nurses qualified in nursing to come to the smaller cities of the Amazon to assist the health service, many of whose workers have been infected with covid. The health care system in Amazonas has come under significant pressure since recent government cuts to funding.
“The situation experienced in the city of Manaus is an urgent call for Christians and all people sensitive to the suffering of others. You need to help,” said the President of CNBB, Dom Walmor Azevedo.
The Health Surveillance Foundation reported that in Amazonas 8,117 people have died from Covid-19, a majority of which in Manaus.
As the death toll mounts and demand for supplies rises, the price of oxygen cylinders has increased tenfold – from R800 (£110) to R8000 (£1,100).
CAFOD’s representative in Brazil, Cecilia Ioria, has hailed the Church’s response to the crisis.
“[It] has been a strong voice throughout, even more so in this second wave, demanding that the federal government take responsibility, and through practical actions,” she said.
“These church leaders on the frontlines refuse to sit back and wait for people to die because of the lack of oxygen, resources and beds. Thanks to their efforts – and the support of the UK public – they can now provide some oxygen to hospitals, PPE for health workers and food baskets for families. ”
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who previously labelled the virus a “little flu”, has met with mounting pressure to tackle the virus.
In July last year, some of Brazil’s health worker unions urged the International Criminal Court to investigate his government for crimes against humanity for its handling of the pandemic. This week, Brazil’s prosecutor-general has opened a preliminary investigation into Bolsonaro and Brazil’s health minister Eduardo Pazuello for possible negligence with regard to the outbreak in Manaus.
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