Skip to content

Bishops ensure life-saving oxygen reaches the Amazon but more help is needed for people to survive

4 February 2021

Thursday 4 February 2021

UK charity CAFOD has been part of efforts coordinated by the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) to deliver oxygen cylinders to Manaus, the capital of Brazil’s Amazonas state. Yet despite initial relief, church leaders say more help is urgently needed.

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. Since the first delivery of oxygen last week, local volunteers and health workers have been working round the clock to coordinate distributions of other vital items such as disposable masks and gloves, medicines, and oximeters.

Sister Irene Lopes from the Brazilian organisation REPAM put out a request to all local congregations with sisters qualified in nursing to urgently come to smaller cities in the Amazon where many health workers are infected with COVID-19 and unable to work.

“The situation experienced in the city of Manaus is an urgent call for Christians and all people sensitive to the suffering of others. You need to help,” said the President of CNBB, Dom Walmor Azevedo.

Since the beginning of this year, the state of Amazonas has declared a public emergency due to the collapse of public hospitals.

According to the Health Surveillance Foundation, Amazonas has now recorded more than 6,000 deaths from COVID-19, two-thirds of which were in the capital, Manaus. This represents a 157 per cent increase in the moving average of deaths in the last 14 days.

Oxygen prices in the region have skyrocketed. At the beginning of December, an oxygen cylinder cost around 800,00 Reais (£110). Today, it costs 8,000 (£1,100) or more.

Cecilia Iorio, CAFOD’s country representative for Brazil, said:

“Overall, the situation is dire across Brazil. Official figures show that the number of deaths is more than 225,000 and it is estimated that nearly 9.5 million people have been infected. However, due to underreporting, these figures do not illustrate the full picture.  

“The Catholic Church has been a strong voice throughout, even more so in this second wave, demanding that the federal government take responsibility, and through practical actions.

“These church leaders on the frontlines refuse to sit back and wait for people to die because of the lack of oxygen, resources and beds. Thanks to their efforts – and the support of the UK public – they can now provide some oxygen to hospitals, PPE for health workers and food baskets for families.

“They have also made provisions to help people deal with the mental health implications of this disaster, offering bereavement counselling to families, as some have lost three or four members in less than a week.”

“These church leaders have incredible strength. Now they just need our support.”

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.


Coronavirus prayers

During this pandemic we pray for all who are sick, all who care for them, all who have died and all who mourn