Sydney priest serving on the COVID frontline in Peru

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Residents queue to fill oxygen tanks for sick relatives in Iquitos. PHOTO: Supplied

Despite a repeated lockdown, pandemic still reigns

Sydney’s Fr John Anderson says that many people living in Peru’s largest jungle city continue to fall desperately sick due to COVID-19.

Fr Anderson ministers as parish priest of Santa Rosa de Lima Parish in Iquitos, and says the city has endured “chaos” for months on end. The remote city in northern Peru has been cruelly struck by the coronavirus pandemic with the Amazon city of Iquitos the hardest hit.

Administrator of the Vicariate of Iquitos Fr Miguel 
Fuertes has issued an urgent appeal for donations to provide an oxygen generator. 

Fr John Anderson prepares to conduct a funeral in a private home. PHOTO: Supplied

Last year the Vicariate was able to crowdfund enough money to purchase four oxygen generators, which it gave to local health authorities to supply hospitals and clinics. However, they are still not sufficient to meet the need in the city of 470,000 people living under a fresh lockdown since January.

As hospitals 
are forced to turn people away due to overcrowding, family members of COVID-19 patients can wait in nearby streets for hours or even days to fill oxygen cylinders.

Fr Anderson
 told The Catholic Weekly that a second appeal by Fr Fuertes garnered US$140,000 last month but that more is still needed. The generator will cost, in Lima, 1000km away, about $80,000, but the price of the compressors has shot up from $50,000 to $150,000…. a lot of people are searching for oxygen, and it will still take over a month for all the equipment to be transported here to Iquitos.”

Fr Anderson said the pastor of the neighbouring parish, Fr José Moreno, died in Lima last month. He had been diagnosed with Leukemia, a bacterial infection and COVID-19.

“How this will evolve, who knows…but we are in the hands of the good Lord”

Fr Anderson has been donning full PPE to visit hospital patients who are sharing wards with COVID-infected patients and conducting an ever-increasing number of funerals in people’s homes.

“How this will evolve, who knows…but 
we are in the hands of the good Lord,” he said.
The impoverished city surrounded by jungle was already struggling to recover from a dengue fever outbreak when the pandemic hit in what local health authorities called a catastrophe. 

Last month while the country was in lockdown the daily death toll in the population of 32 million rose to more than 180.
But deaths due to COVID-19 are believed to vastly outweigh official figures.

For information
 see the Vicariato Apostólico de Iquitos Facebook page.