Africa and Latin America running out of medical oxygen supply
A crisis over the supply of medical oxygen for coronavirus patients has struck nations in Africa and Latin America, where warnings went unheeded at the start of the pandemic and doctors say the shortage has led to unnecessary deaths.
It takes about 12 weeks to install a hospital oxygen plant and even less time to convert industrial oxygen manufacturing systems into a medical-grade network. But in Brazil and Nigeria, as well as in less-populous nations, decisions to fully address inadequate supplies only started being made last month, after hospitals were overwhelmed and patients started to die.
Many countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia are struggling to keep pace with a surging second wave of the pandemic. Medical oxygen is a vital part of treatment for the coronavirus and while it is universally available in most rich countries, many poorer countries are seeing health systems overwhelmed. Supplies that were already limited are becoming exhausted, leaving patients gasping for air.
“Vaccines are the light at the end of a long tunnel, but we need oxygen to keep people alive long enough to get through that tunnel. Hospitals and clinics are running out of oxygen as an unstoppable second wave of the pandemic strikes families with no chance of being vaccinated in time. Let’s be clear: oxygen is the life-or-death medicine for COVID-19 treatment, and lives that could be saved are being lost,” officials said.
Latin America has also been hard hit. There are reports that oxygen demand in Peru has increased by 300%. Oxygen plants in the country are only able to produce 80% of what’s needed, according to Peru’s Ministry of Health. The shortage of oxygen supply in Manaus, Brazil has left hospitals with no choice but to fly patients out to other cities for treatments along with leaving many dead unnecessarily.