Oxygen, one of the most important weapons in preserving the lives of coronavirus patients, is in short supply and has become a powerful symbol of chaos in Peru. Desperate citizens turned to a thriving black market, with tanks listed for sale at exorbitant prices on social media and e-commerce sites.
It was Carlos Roque Rojas, 41, whose 81-year-old mother had a fever and breathing difficulties. He looked all over for oxygen but eventually failed. “My mom was abandoned,” he told CNN. “The demand for oxygen was too much.”
Rocky, who lives in the Loreto region of the Amazon basin, has described people dying right next to him in a hospital as he collapses before his eyes. Soon after, his mother was dead.
Rocky’s experience illustrates the chaos the epidemic has caused in the region. Two doctors told him that his mother was infected with coronavirus, although post-mortem tests returned negatively and the cause of death was recorded as pneumonia. “I don’t know what to believe,” Rocky told CNN, but it was clear to him that finding the oxygen would have helped her live.
He said it is “incredible” that the country is not prepared for a pandemic. “They need to improve our health system,” he said. “They need to improve the oxygen factories.”
The coastal city of Lambaek is one of the hotspots, and Marcella Boycon, 30, is struggling to get oxygen to a member of the affected family.
Boycon’s 60-year-old father fights pneumonia after contracting a coronavirus and also has a pre-existing lung condition. Puicón and her six siblings decided to treat their father at home, but none of them were able to work due to the ongoing shutdown procedures, which is a daily struggle to provide drugs and oxygen due to a lack of income.
“I feel helpless, angry, and angry, I feel my hands are tied,” she told CNN. “My father is ill and we can’t afford something very necessary to survive.”
The government pledges to help
On Thursday, Peruvian President Martin Vizcara acknowledged public outrage, announced emergency measures to increase production and obtain oxygen for medical purposes, and announced that gas was a strategic health resource.
“We are giving the Ministry of Health the resources to purchase the amount of oxygen we need at the national level to treat patients, which our technicians have created,” Vizkara told a news conference. “We are allocating 84 million soles ($ 24.5 million) to the Ministry of Health to purchase the necessary oxygen supplies at the national level.”
Vizcarra also realized the distribution problems and lack of cylinders themselves. He said, “The same decree also provides for the transfer of 11 million insole to build oxygen networks and maintain oxygen factories in Lima and the regions.”
Peru was one of the first countries in the Americas to take strict precautions against coronaviruses, such as staying at home, curfews, and border closures.
However, the closure measures failed. Many of the Peruvian poor have no choice but to venture outside their homes for work, food or financial transactions, which leads to crowded markets, public transportation and foreign banks.
Christian Lopez Vargas, a Peruvian economist and assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and 72% in the informal sector, said more than 30% of families live in crowded conditions, and 72% work in the informal sector, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Information in Peru. , Go out every day to earn enough money to survive.
“[Peru] “The strengths have some weaknesses, but also some weaknesses that we see in other countries in Latin America,” said Marcus Espinal, director of communicable diseases and environmental determinants of health at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Espinal said, despite efforts to allocate more resources to this sector in recent years, this includes a lack of investment, as Peru has historically spent less than 6% of GDP on public health recommended by the Pan American Health Organization. According to the World Bank, the country spent 3.165% of GDP on public health in 2017.
Espinal said that Peru also has less than two hospital beds per 1,000 people, which is not enough, but it is not clear what caused the hypoxia problem. He said: “It is difficult to give you this answer.” “At the end of the day there may be several factors.”
What is clear is that oxygen deficiency is extremely important and that it is getting worse, said Javier Gallardo, who runs Oxígeno y Derivados, a company based in Lima that distributes oxygen treatments to patients at home.
“The demand from hospitals and health clinics has doubled four or five because coronavirus patients need large amounts of oxygen to treat them,” he said. Gallardo told CNN that the shortage was affecting the gas and oxygen cylinders themselves. “Unfortunately, the stock has run out,” the company is struggling to keep supplies for coronavirus patients as well as those suffering from other conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary fibrosis.
Despite the requests, Gallardo did not raise prices, unlike sellers on the black market.
Gallardo says it is a “puzzle” where the oxygen comes from on the black market, but he talks to customers who say the cylinders that were sold for 1,200 insole ($ 353), which he charges, now turns into 5,000 insole ($ 1,470)) each. “It is outrageous,” he said, adding that acute or critical coronavirus patients can use one cylinder of oxygen every 6-8 hours, or four a day.
“The demand for oxygen is crucial, and since the start of the epidemic there has been no plan to address this problem, we need to keep in mind that the current demand is about 50% higher than usual,” Leonid Leka, CEO of NGOs and Peruvian Health Partners said And lecturer at Harvard Medical School for CNN.
Communities organize fundraising campaigns to purchase oxygen
In response, communities across the country have been organized to try to get oxygen.
In Iquitos, the capital of the Loreto region in the Amazon basin, Father Miguel Fuertes, director of the Apostolic Prosecution of Iquitos, launched a fundraising campaign to help those in need. “There were many patients, there was no oxygen for them, hospitals collapsed, and you can see desperate people running on the streets with oxygen tanks,” he said.
Fuertes told CNN that his fundraising campaign had so far received two million slippers ($ 588,544) and was able to purchase three oxygen factories with money, but there is still a shortage in the region.
Father Jose Manuel Zamora Romero, parish priest in Lampaek, northern Peru, has also launched a campaign called #ResisteLambayeque to provide food to the needy, the source of oxygen tanks and medicines for those who have been infected with the virus.
Zamora told CNN: “Hospitals do not have the ability to treat these patients, and there is no oxygen and many of them die because of its deficiency.” “So far we have bought eight oxygen tanks, which are very expensive. None of them cost less than 4,000 insole ($ 1,175).”
Zamora’s campaign received support from celebrities like national football team star Paulo Guerrero and donated one of the oxygen tanks to Boycon to help her 60-year-old father treat at home, both told CNN.[عدل]
But the other problem is paying for refilling, that is, if there is any oxygen available at all. “We need to fill the tank every day, and these days because of the shutdown, we can’t work and save costs,” said Boycon, who will have to pay 170 insole ($ 50) for the refill. “The oxygen is sold almost everywhere and prices continue to rise.”
Gallardo, of the oxygen distribution company, said the main problem was not producing more medical oxygen, but rather the lack of cylinders themselves. He said that people usually send blank cylinders for immediate refilling, but many patients stick to them as a precaution due to the current shortage. “We have to move step-by-step toward safer and more efficient oxygen supply systems,” Gallardo said.
But people like Puicón need help now to replenish the donated oxygen tank. She said, “We call every day and anywhere else and try to find the money.” “This situation is impossible.”