Updated: July 23, 2021 08:45 AM GMT
Volunteers wearing personal protective equipment pray in front of bodies of people who died from Covid-19 during their funeral at a cemetery in Mandalay on July 14. (Photo: AFP)
Christians, Muslims and Buddhists have stepped up to lend a helping hand as coup-hit Myanmar battles with a third wave of Covid-19 amid an oxygen shortage and overwhelmed hospitals.
Buddhist monks are leading care centers and monasteries have arranged oxygen cylinders to rent to people who are in desperate need of oxygen for their loved ones being treated at home.
Charitable groups led by Buddhist monks and laypeople are providing oxygen cylinders, sending Covid patients to hospitals and arranging burials at cemeteries.
Long queues are seen every morning outside a mosque in Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial hub, as people wait to refill cylinders with oxygen which the mosque provides daily.
The mosque played a vital role in arranging food boxes for quarantine centers last September when the country was battling the second wave of Covid.
Muslim leaders are also planning to build an oxygen plant with donations from business people.
Our hearts become the altar where the bread of compassion is shared with our neighbors
The Catholic Church has taken steps in providing Covid-19 prevention awareness, medical support and renting oxygen cylinders to those in need.
Some church buildings including seminaries and parish halls have been converted into care and quarantine centers to accept Covid-infected patients regardless of race or religion.
Various religious groups have also reached out to communities to provide food and other essential items as thousands of people struggle to make ends meet amid the pandemic and the coup.
“Our hearts become the altar where the bread of compassion is shared with our neighbors. Those of us who can, share food and medicine, those of us who cannot, at least pray for others and reach out in communication.
“Compassion has become a common religion. A new church of compassion, the union of hearts and care for compassion is emerging out of this darkness,” he said in a homily on July 18.
The gesture of solidarity from various religions comes as the third wave devastates the Southeast Asian nation, which was already on its knees following the Feb. 1 military coup.
People queue for long hours for oxygen in several cities and seriously ill patients die at home amid the junta’s neglect of the health system and mistrust of military-run hospitals.
The junta-controlled health ministry put the daily caseload at 6,000 with an average of 200 deaths a day, but medics and charitable groups say the real figures are higher.
UN right experts and human rights groups have called for an emergency coalition to intervene in Myanmar's Covid crisis as the impoverished nation is on the brink of another catastrophe.
“An explosion of Covid cases, including the Delta variant, the collapse of Myanmar’s healthcare system, and the deep mistrust of the people of Myanmar of anything connected to the military junta, are a perfect storm of factors that could cause a significant loss of life in Myanmar without emergency assistance by the international community,” said Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on Myanmar.