Medical oxygen shortage in Zimbabwe as Covid-19 cases surge

15 January 2021 - 07:00 By Sharon Mazingaizo
A surge of Covid-19 patients in Zimbabwe has increased demand for oxygen and as a result there is a dire shortage. Hospital beds are also in short supply.
A surge of Covid-19 patients in Zimbabwe has increased demand for oxygen and as a result there is a dire shortage. Hospital beds are also in short supply.
Image: 123RF/Yuriy Klochan

Covid-19 patients in need of oxygen in Zimbabwe are in a dire situation as the country’s hospitals run critically short of medical oxygen.

Many people in need have taken to social media looking to buy oxygen cylinders.

Private medical suppliers are selling oxygen concentrators for between USD$2,000 (about R30,300) and USD $3,700 (about R56,000) — a price which is beyond the reach of many in Zimbabwe.

A medical supply specialist, Calvin Majora, tweeted: “We have run out of stock of oxygen concentrators, anyone with reasonably priced concentrators so that we give preference who need them at reasonable prices, we don’t want to be profiteering, help we have many people in urgent need.”

Zimbabwe is in a second tough lockdown, with rising Covid-19 cases.

Dr Agnes Mahomva, Zimbabwe’s chief co-ordinator of the Covid-19 task force, said: “A surge of Covid-19 patients has increased demand for oxygen and as a result we now have a shortage of medical oxygen. As government we know that medical oxygen is crucial for treating Covid-19 and our main priority right now is to buy oxygen.”

The country’s health-care sector is heading for collapse, with shortages of medical equipment now critical. Prof Rashida Abbas Ferrand, an epidemiologist running the one of the designated Covid-19 centres in the country’s biggest public hospital, said she can’t speak for the rest of the country on the issue of medical oxygen. But where she was based, in Harare, the problem was dire.

“Right now, we don’t have enough beds,” said Ferrand.

Zimbabwe’s health ministry has invited tenders to supply oxygen to its health facilities. The tender closes on January 18, the ministry said in an advertisement published in the state-owned Herald newspaper.

Zimbabwe has recorded 24,256 Covid-19 cases and 589 deaths.

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