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Oxygen shortage hits India as 2nd wave of COVID-19 rages

May 12, 2021 4:50 pmOxygen shortage hits India as 2nd wave of COVID-19 rages

By Xinhua

At least 11 COVID-19 patients died on Monday evening in a hospital in the southeastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh due to oxygen shortages, local media reported Tuesday.

Sadly, this was just one of the many tragedies the South Asian country has witnessed in recent weeks following an oxygen supply breakdown amid the second wave of the pandemic nationwide.While families and friends of the dead grieved for their beloved ones, they also raged against governments and hospital administrations over oxygen shortages amid a pandemic-induced chaotic mess, prompting them to take immediate actions to turn the tables.

On Wednesday, India’s COVID-19 tally rose to 22,992,517 and the total death toll reached 249,992.Since the second wave, a number of incidents have unfolded across Indian hospitals in wake of the shortage of essential medical supplies, especially oxygen. On April 23, at least 26 COVID-19 patients died at a hospital in New Delhi when the oxygen supply in its intensive care units ran out completely.Seven days later, six more died at night due to oxygen shortages in a hospital in Gurugram, a city southwest of New Delhi.”We came to the hospital thinking doctors are there to take care of our loved ones. But then we are told oxygen is not available,” said Amritha, an attendant. “Whose responsibility is it to provide the oxygen and who should we blame for the deaths that are taking place simply because hospitals are not having facilities?”

The tragedy happened again on the afternoon of May 1, as at least 12 died due to lack of medical oxygen at Batra Hospital & Medical Research Center in the capital city, including Dr. R K Himthani, the hospital’s head of the gastroenterology unit. “Rest in peace Dr. R K Himthani. We lost a cheerful and smiling face today, not because of the virus but due to lack of oxygen,” Himthani’s colleague Dr. Tushar Mehta wrote on social media.Experts said the bottlenecks of India’s oxygen supply lie in transportation and storage.While most oxygen producers are in eastern India, the soaring demand comes mainly from western, central and northern regions. Besides, there is a shortage of cryogenic tankers, which are necessary to transport liquid oxygen at very low temperatures to distributors.

Also, many Indian hospitals do not have on-site plants to store oxygen.

In many hospitals, infected patients have to share beds or lay down on the floor in wards and corridors. And there are even more who have to lie down on stretchers or inside their own vehicles outside hospitals, gasping for breath.Experts said doctors and paramedical staff have to take tougher decisions on who among the patients should get oxygen and who should be left out. “The situation is really bad. We are being trained to save each and everyone without any distinction, but in the ongoing pandemic, when the hospitals are inundated and facilities are scarce, we are forced to make tough decisions,” said a doctor pleading anonymity. “It is really hard, for after all we too are humans.”

As oxygen shortages are hitting hospitals, attendants have been asked to get oxygen for their beloved ones on their own. As a result, social media platforms have been flooded with requests by desperate families hunting for oxygen cylinders and refills. This has in turn stoked up a thriving unregulated black market for cylinders and concentrators, which are sold much above their usual retail prices.Reports said an oxygen cylinder which would normally cost 82-137 U.S. dollars is now sold 10 times the price, and not many people can afford it. Besides, police have arrested a few for resorting to the black market. “It is a chaotic situation all around. Who would have thought that people would have to carry oxygen cylinders for their ailing family members?” said Ashish Vardhan, a volunteer helping people to access oxygen cylinders and hospital beds. “This massive shortage could have been avoided had the government planned things in advance and not ignored the expert opinions about the outbreak of the second COVID-19 wave.”

Volunteers of the Sikh community have set up makeshift facilities in and around New Delhi to provide free oxygen to COVID-19 patients, and also a temporary hospital with 250 beds.”People are crying saying they have lost three family members, the fourth is dying, please help with oxygen and a bed,” said Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee. “I think, on this earth, you would never have seen this situation where people are dying and we are forced to give oxygen, or a miracle assistance.” “As hospitals are inundated and people are being turned away, so they come to us as a last resort and we provide them oxygen here,” said Jasmeer Singh, a Sikh volunteer. “We too are facing storages and have to manage things with our limited stocks.”

The oxygen shortages have brought states face to face with the federal government over their quota.Last week, Allahabad High Court in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh said the death of COVID-19 patients out of oxygen shortages in the cities of Lucknow and Meerut is a criminal act, “not less than a genocide” at the hands of authorities entrusted with the task to ensure the oxygen supply chain is maintained. On Saturday, India’s Supreme Court formed a 12-member task force to ensure medical oxygen is delivered throughout the country in a streamlined manner. The task force will assess and recommend the need and distribution of oxygen throughout India.

To cope up with the crisis, the federal government also started importing mobile oxygen generation plants and tankers, apart from buying portable oxygen concentrators. Oxygen is now being brought to hard-hit regions using special train services.

'I don’t need lectures on democracy,' Museveni tells off foreigner actors

May 12, 2021 4:18 pm'I don’t need lectures on democracy,' Museveni tells off foreigner actors

By Benjamin Jumbe 

Uganda does not need any lectures on democracy from any one abroad.

The remark was made by President Museveni in his maiden speech after being sworn in for a 6th term. 

The president said many actors in the world have attempted to give advice to Uganda yet lack the credentials to talk about democracy. 

“It is quite comic and laughable to hear of some actors in the world giving us lectures about democracy, you give me a lecture about democracy? What are your own credentials? We designed this system not from air conditioned rooms but from the jungles of our country where we lived with the people in their huts in those days for much of the 16 years of resistance,” said Mr Museveni.

The President also said the African fraternity must ensure economic and political integration which is a prerequisite for the continent’s prosperity and strategic security.

He also called for the building of a center of gravity for Africans in East Africa to save the black race from persecution. 

In the new term, Museveni committed to continue pushing for the social economic transformation of Ugandans in the new term.

Several heads of state from the region are present to witness this occasion and include Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta who is also the EAC chair, Tanzania Samia Suluhu , Salva Kir of South Sudan among others.

Ugandan nurses persevere at their posts amid COVID-19 hardships

May 12, 2021 4:04 pmUgandan nurses persevere at their posts amid COVID-19 hardships

By Xinhua

Violet Ayesiza, 32, works as a nurse at Kasangati Health Center in the central Ugandan district of Wakiso. Now she has to work for more than 12 hours a day before she is relieved by her colleagues.

She is among more than 70,000 registered nurses and midwives in the country to serve a nationwide population of 45 million people, as the world commemorates International Nurses Day on Wednesday.In an interview with Xinhua before International Nurses Day, Ayesiza said she was overwhelmed with work, like many other nurses and midwives in Uganda who were staying at their posts amid the heavy workload brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the increased workload, she continues to serve diligently and professionally, she said.International Nurses Day falls on May 12 to mark the crucial work of nurses.

Since Uganda reported its first COVID-19 case in March last year, its health facilities have been flooded by patients, some infected with COVID-19 and some with other ailments.


”The number of people who come to receive treatment for ailments has now even doubled compared before the outbreak (of COVID-19). Many people are now seeking the services of health workers at the facility,” Ayesiza said.


She said that her health center now treats between 100 to 200 patients in a single day.

Teopista Asimwe, another nurse, told Xinhua that despite the meager pay, they still stay at their posts to provide health care to the people who come to the health center.”We have few nurses and midwives providing prenatal, delivery, and postnatal services. Being a health facility that’s within the town center, we end up providing delivery and postnatal services, including family planning and immunizations,” said Asimwe.”The workload is heavy and we sometimes need extra hands, especially on peak days,” said the nurse.

Juliet Nalwanga, a 25-year-old mother of two, said she was happy because she at least got the health care provided by the nurses and midwives.”The nurses here are friendly and I feel happy whenever I come here to immunize my children, although sometimes the health center is filled with many people, especially during these pandemic periods,” Nalwanga told Xinhua at Goma Health Center in the central district of Mukono.

Justus Cherop Kiplangat, president of the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union, told Xinhua that, although many nurses and midwives work under terrible conditions, they still continue to provide health care.Kiplangat said many health workers do not have decent accommodation and some live far away from their workplaces.

The Ugandan government in May 2018 pledged to increase the wellbeing of nurses and midwives, including increasing their lunch allowance. But the government reportedly failed to fulfill the pledge, which forced nurses and midwives to stage a sit-down strike several days ago. Ugandan government officials said the pandemic had changed the government’s priority for funding allocations.

Robinah Nabbanja, minister of state for health in charge of general duties, told Xinhua that once the pandemic slows down, the medical workers would be the priority. “My advice to nurses and midwives is to remain working as the government looks for funds to fulfill its promise,” she said.

David Karubanga, minister of state for public service, told reporters that the leadership of the Nurses and Midwives Union had reached a consensus with the government over the payment of their lunch allowance.

Bobi beats security, sneaks out of his home

May 12, 2021 2:22 pmBobi beats security, sneaks out of his home

By Monitor team

The National Unity Platform (NUP) leader Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, secretly left his home in Magere, Wakiso District, hours before security forces surrounded it to prevent his departure.

Bobi is said to have departed his home in Magerere hurriedly, together with his wife Barbie, after security contacts alerted him that he was due to be placed under house arrest ahead of President Museveni’s inauguration.

The former-presidential candidate reportedly left his house in the wee hours of Monday morning, and his whereabouts remain unknown, with police Spokesman Fred Enanga saying they have him on their radar.

Police told a joint press conference in Kampala early this week, that they had received intelligence that a defeated opposition leader planned to irregularly swear himself in, in the eastern Iganga District as President.

They gave no names and NUP Spokesman, Joel Ssenyonyi, dismissed the claim as a money-making deal for security agencies.

Bobi, who came second in the January 14 poll with 35% of the votes, was invited to the president’s swearing-in for a record sixth elective term but he rejected the invitation, arguing that his victory had been stolen and he could not attend the “illegal” event.

I'll promote welfare of Ugandans, says Museveni

May 12, 2021 1:29 pmI'll promote welfare of Ugandans, says Museveni

Uganda’s longest-serving President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni was sworn in on Wednesday for his sixth-elective term of office at Kololo Independence Grounds.

“I, Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni, swear that I’ll observe the laws of Uganda and promote the welfare of the people of Uganda,” the 76-year-old veteran leader said.

Mr Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, won a contested January 14 election with 58 per cent of the votes, while his closest challenger Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, garnered 34 per cent.

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CSOs highlight four priority areas Museveni’s first 100 days

May 12, 2021 12:25 pmCSOs highlight four priority areas Museveni’s first 100 days

By Ritah Kemigisa

As President Museveni takes oath for his sixth term today, Civil Society Organisations have highlighted four key areas the president needs to focus on in his first 100 days.

Speaking to KFM, the executive director Centre for Constitutional Governance, Sarah Bireete says the president needs to urgently clean up the image of Uganda by putting to order the security agencies that are on the spot for violating human rights.

For the shrinking economy, Bireete advises the President to, crack the whip on corruption and reduce borrowing and unnecessary spending.

She is also asking the president to come up with a clear strategic plan for the surging youth unemployment and a solution to the unfair taxes.

“The UBOS demographics show that only 1.6% of Uganda’s population is aged 70 years and above, we need to have a strategic plan to address unemployment and having expanded revenue with increased household income which can absorb a youthful population,” said Ms Bireete.

She has meanwhile advised the president to reduce the size of the cabinet as one of the ways to cut the cost of public administration.

“The outgoing cabinet, is the third biggest in the world, we hope that he will not treat this country with a shrinking economy to an 80 plus cabinet size that is unnecessary since several ministries can be combined,” said Ms Bireete.