Updated: July 26, 2021 04:16 PM GMT
People waiting to fill empty oxygen canisters outside a factory in Yangon amid a surge in the number of coronavirus cases in Myanmar. (Photo: AFP)
The Catholic Church is lending a helping hand to people affected by the coronavirus in Myanmar as its health system struggles to cope with a record wave of infections.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Major Seminary in Yangon has been converted into a care center and currently accommodates 50 people who are in serious condition needing oxygen support.
More beds are being arranged to accommodate 70 people in the seminary as over 50 people have been on the waiting list, church officials said.
Another 50 people have been admitted in the Epiphany Church compound in Yangon, while a seminary in Thanlyin, a port town near Yangon, is being converted into a care center.
Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar is coordinating with Medical Action Myanmar (MAM), a non-governmental organization that provides medical care including oxygen supplies in church-run care centers, church officials informed.
He said priority will be given to conducting awareness programs, opening care centers and providing much-needed oxygen supplies
All the care centers accept people regardless of race and religion.
Father Henry Eikhlein, executive coordinator of the Myanmar Catholic Church Humanitarian Assistance Initiatives (MCHAI), said the Catholic Church will play an active role in responding to Covid-19 crisis and offering humanitarian assistance across the country.
He said priority will be given to conducting awareness programs, opening care centers and providing much-needed oxygen supplies.
MCHAI has been established by Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon and other bishops along with priests, religious, medical doctors and laypeople to respond to the pandemic.
The Church’s initiative comes as the third wave devastates Myanmar, already on its knees after the military toppled the elected civilian leaders and seized power on Feb. 1. The ensuing turmoil and protests have thrown the country’s pandemic response into chaos.
The military junta-controlled Health Ministry has put the daily case load at an average of 6,000 and 200 deaths, but medics and charitable groups say the real figures are higher.
Amid the grim situation, Cardinal Charles Bo has appealed for those who rule to be "good shepherds" and save the people.
Peace is the only vaccine against what is turning into an apocalypse of death and disease
“These are apocalyptic times: starvation, struggle for oxygen, long queues in the cemeteries and the persisting virus of conflict and poverty of our people,” he said in a homily on July 25.
“Unless there is peace, hundreds will be buried every day. Peace is the only vaccine against what is turning into an apocalypse of death and disease.”
Father Robert Mg Ba from Kalay Diocese, which has transformed a pastoral center into a care center looking after 11 patients on oxygen support, said getting 24 hours of electricity was a big challenge.
“We have 30 beds and have even set up oxygen concentrators but cannot admit more patients due to the electricity problem,” Father Mg Ba told UCA News.
Kalay Diocese has 10 volunteers including doctors, nurses and youths working to provide medical support to the patients. It also runs a clinic and Covid-19 testing facilities.