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"Our communities cannot be left to die," warn Church leaders as new Covid-19 strain cripples Brazil’s health services

11 March 2021

11 March 2021

Precious oxygen​ cylinders have been transported by land, air, and rivers in mammoth efforts, led by the church and charities, to reach Brazil’s remote Amazonian communities. These supplies, however, are only a small proportion of what is needed to fight the latest COVID-19 outbreak, church leaders have warned.

Earlier this week, hundreds of oxygen cylinders were transported by air and later, by boats, to rural communities in Brazil’s Amazon, who have faced severe outbreaks of COVID-19 with limited access to healthcare services.

As the cylinders arrived by plane in Manaus city - the capital of the Amazonas state, which has been badly impacted - the local Archbishop was there to greet the cargo.

“We would like to say thank you for sending these cylinders which are already being sent to the interior of Amazonas State,” said Dom Leonardo Steiner, the Archbishop of Manaus, upon receiving the delivery.

The delivery of these oxygen cylinders, referred to by The Bishops Conference of Brazil as: “Drops of life to take care of the people of Amazon,” was the result of international co-ordination by church leaders, Caritas, and Catholic charities.

CAFOD, the aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, provided funds for 165 oxygen cylinders, which through a partnership with Caritas Brazil, were distributed across the region. Cecilia Iorio, CAFOD’s country representative for Brazil, said:

“It is great news that this vital oxygen has reached the remote communities of the Amazon, but these deliveries cannot even begin to cover the needs in the region.

“Church leaders are on the frontlines – calling for government action, helping to secure vital resources, and disseminating life-saving information – but they need national and international support.”

Outside of the Amazon, the situation across Brazil is deteriorating rapidly. The number of deaths has reached record highs and the health system teeters on collapse. On Tuesday (9 March), Brazil registered a record 1,972 COVID-19 deaths in a single day. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the Brazil variant will affect the region and beyond. 

According to the Health Ministry, the country had 70,764 new cases of coronavirus, reaching a total of 11.12 million infections and 168,370 coronavirus deaths.

Notes to Editors

For further information and interviews with spokespeople, please contact: Elouise Hobbs,, Mobile: +44 (0)7954 077426, Or, CAFOD’s 24-hour media hotline on +44 (0)7919 301 429  

  • The “Breath of Life” campaign was coordinated by the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) with Caritas Brasileira and Caritas Manaus, alongside CAFOD, to bring oxygen to Manaus.

  • Find out more about CAFOD’s work in Brazil at:

  • CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and part of Caritas International. We reach out to people living in poverty with practical help, whatever their religion or culture. Help us build a world where no one is beyond reach of the love and care they need.


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