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World News

Brazilian church leaders ask for more help as many die due to oxygen shortages

Church leaders in Brazil are asking for further help following the oxygen shortages in the country that have led to more than 50 additional deaths in the Amazon state of Manaus during the last week. 

Archbishop Leonardo Steiner of Manaus told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) the biggest difficulties are the sheer distances and the problem of access to hospitals. 

Churches have been able to send oxygen to a number of towns so far, but this has proven challenging as rivers are the main means of transportation between towns. 

"We are trying to locate mini production plants for the supply of oxygen, which would resolve a number of problems," Bishop Steiner said. 

"The number of the poor has grown, and the difficulty of finding food for our brothers and sisters living on our city streets has likewise grown still greater," he continued.

The extremity of the situation has reportedly led to many drawing down on life savings or taking out loans to ensure relatives can have access to oxygen. 

The price of an oxygen cylinder has skyrocketed from £110 in December to £1,100 currently, which in most cases, represents more than four months' income for the average household in the region. 

For Bishop Steiner, the global response to the situation in Brazil has been very encouraging:

"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," he said. 

Last month, 350 church leaders signed a petition for an impeachment trial of President Jair Bolsonaro arguing he has committed "crimes of responsibility" due to his handling of the pandemic. 

Brazil currently ranks second in the world in the number of deaths for coronavirus, with more than 200,000.

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