Brazil's churches tackle devastating oxygen shortage during Covid-19

Churches in Manaus, the state capital of Amazonas, have been helping the poor with clothes, food and other essentials even while they themselves have been struggling.(Photo: Aid to the Church in Need)

The Church in Brazil is playing a vital role in the fightback against Covid-19 by helping to tackle a shortage in oxygen supplies.

The shortage has led to over 50 additional deaths among coronavirus patients in Amazonas State in the past week, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports. 

Covid-19 has taken a devastating toll on Brazil, with deaths across the country standing at over 225,000 and tens of thousands of new cases being recorded every day. 

In Amazonas, where the main mode of transportation is the rivers, the Church has been providing logistical and other support to bring oxygen to remote hospitals. 

Archbishop Leonardo Steiner of Manaus told ACN: "The biggest difficulty is the sheer distances and the problem of access to the hospitals that are equipped for helping the most severely ill.

"Today we were able to send oxygen to a number of towns – this was an enormous help.

"Now we are trying to locate mini production plants for the supply of oxygen, which would resolve a number of problems."

In state capital Manaus, there were 2,195 deaths from coronavirus during the month of January, a more than 700 per cent increase on December 2020.

There have been desperate stories of families in the city emptying their life savings or taking out loans to buy oxygen for loved ones in hospital with Covid-19. 

ACN was told that in some cases families had paid more than £750 - four months' income for the average household in the area - to provide loved ones with an extra three hours of oxygen.

Archbishop Steiner said that the pandemic was plunging more people into poverty, and had made it more difficult for the Church to help those living on the streets.

Churches have tried to provide poor families with food, clothes and other essentials, even while they themselves are struggling because of the pandemic.

ACN has been providing financial support to churches in Amazonas so that they can continue to help the poor during Covid-19. 

Archbishop Steiner said: "It is so good for the Brazilian Church to see the world supporting us with their words and donations.

"The pandemic itself leads us to meditate on the value of life, the transitory nature of things, the essence of our existence, the beauty and joy of the Gospel.

"It is in such moments of suffering and sadness that we feel ourselves most strongly to be a family and close to one another. God is so much present among us – it is palpable."