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Lack of medical oxygen in Africa, Latin America against the background of the virus

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) – The crisis over the supply of medical oxygen to patients with coronavirus has hit African-Latin American countries, where warnings were ignored at the start of the epidemic, with doctors saying the shortage led to unnecessary deaths.

It takes about 12 weeks to set up a hospital oxygen plant, and less time to turn industrial oxygen systems into a medical grade network. But in Brazil, Nigeria, as well as in less populous countries, decisions to completely address inadequate resources began only last month after hospital overcrowding and the death of patients.

The lack of access to medical oxygen “I think is one of the issues in determining the health of our age,” said Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygienic Medicine, who said he survived a severe coronavirus infection, the oxygen he received.

Nigerian doctors are eagerly monitoring the traffic as oxygen supplies flow through the blocked streets of Lagos. In other countries, desperate patients sometimes turn to the black market. Governments take action only after hospitals are overcrowded, with dozens dying infected.

In the Brazilian state of Amazonas, scammers were caught transforming fire extinguishers into painted medical oxygen tanks. In Peru, people took turns camping to get balloons for sick relatives.

Only after oxygen shortages were blamed for the deaths of four people in an Egyptian hospital in January and six in one in Pakistan in December did governments address the issue.

Africa on Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said medical oxygen was “a huge boost” on a continent of 1.3 billion people, mainly because COVID-19 patients were more likely to die there as the tide rose. cases:

Even before the epidemic, 2,600 oxygen concentrators in sub-Saharan Africa և 69 operating oxygen plants met less than half the need, leading to preventive deaths, especially from pneumonia, said Dr. Adon Adabi Apia of the World Health Organization.

The number of concentrates has reached about 6,000, mostly from international donations, but the oxygen produced is not very clean for the seriously ill. The number of plants that can produce higher concentrations is now 119.

Nigeria was “struggling to find oxygen to manage the situation” in January, said Chikve Ihekweazu, head of its Centers for Disease Control.

Lagos General Hospital, a city of 14.3 million people, has seen a fivefold increase in virus cases in January. During the first six weeks of 20221, 75 health workers were infected. Only then did President Muhammadu Buhari issue $ 17 million to plant 38 other oxygen plants. $ 670,000 for factory rehabilitation in five hospitals.

Some oxygen suppliers have raised prices sharply, said a doctor at the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to reporters. That increased the cost of a cylinder 10 times, to $ 260, above the average monthly salary; a seriously ill patient could need up to four cylinders a day.

Money and influence do not always help.

Nigerian academician Femi Odekunle, a close ally of the president, was left without enough oxygen at Abuja University Teaching Hospital for almost 12 days before two governors, officials from the Ministry of Health, intervened. In any case, he died, and relatives and friends blame him for the lack of oxygen, reports the online newspaper Premium Times. The hospital attributed his death to a severe infection.

In Malawi, the president promised to finance the medical staff ‘s protective gear – to immediately buy 1,000 oxygen cylinders, adding that he would fly them in if necessary.

Corruption has been blamed on the shortcomings of a new oxygen plant at a hospital in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, the Daily Monitor reported in November. Workers had to rely on rusty oxygen cylinders, which were blamed for the deaths of at least two patients.

“While high-ranking health officials used the oxygen of good advertising, patients were literally suffocated to death,” the paper said. “It turns out that the corners were being cut behind the delays and funding gaps.”

Every breath counts Coalition coordinator Litt Greenslade, who advocates wider access to medical oxygen, says they are evident this spring.

“Very little has been done. “Now you have a second wave, not only in Africa, but also in Latin America, Asia, and the lack of oxygen is turning into a crisis,” he said.

The World Bank has provided $ 50 billion for the world’s poorest countries alone, but only $ 30.8 billion, including $ 80 million for oxygen-related modernization from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Gambia. : , Ghana, Grenada, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Sierra Leone աջ Tajikistan. The World Bank says it will leave almost $ 20 billion between now and the end of June 2021.

“We make money available to countries, but it is the countries, the governments, that have to decide how much to spend and what to spend,” said Dr. Mickey Chopra, who is assisting with the World Bank’s global medical response. :

Many countries generally view oxygen supply as an industrial product for more lucrative industries, such as mining, not healthcare, which has not been the focus of many international donors. Oxygen plants require equipment, good infrastructure, and electricity, which is scarce in developing countries.

White Martins, the main supplier of medical oxygen to the Brazilian state of Amazonas, was operating at half capacity before the epidemic. The first infections hit the isolated city in March, killing so many people that they dug a graveyard outside the jungle.

Last month, doctors in his hometown of Manaus had to choose which patients to treat as oxygen supplies were reduced.

Brazil’s Supreme Court has launched an inquiry into crisis management after White Martins said “unexpected demand growth” led to a shortfall.

“There was a lack of government planning,” said Newton de Oliveira, Indústria Brasileira de Gases, a major supplier of oxygen.

After death alone, an average of 50 a day, the government said, would build 73 oxygen plants in the state. In one month, 26 were on their feet.

Absences continue in Peru, where Danny Luz Llamoca waited five days in front of a distribution center in Lima, saying his father, who was infected with the virus, was getting less than half a tank of oxygen. He was willing to wait as long as it took. “If not, my father will die,” Llamoka said.

WTO Appia said countries with mining industries could, with minor modifications, upgrade their systems to produce medical grade oxygen.

This is exactly what the National Gas Trading Authority of India proposed in April 2020, when the virus burden was relatively low. Industrial storage tanks have been renamed hospitals, says Surendra Singh, manager of the Indian division of the multinational Linde Corporation.

“It’s not rocket science,” said Saket Tiku, president of the All India Industrial Gas Producers Association. “The decision saved thousands of lives.”


Hinnat reported from Paris. Anirudda Gossal in New Delhi, Franklin Brisello in Lima, Peru; Promoted by Sam Magdin in Cairo, Diane Antenna in Rio de Janeiro, Sam Olukoyan եկան Lekan Oyekanm in Lagos, Nigeria, Kara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya, Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan Mujaz Wu Rand.


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