Pope Francis donates 35 ventilators to developing countries battling coronavirus

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Friday that Pope Francis has donated 35 ventilators to overwhelmed hospitals in developing countries as the number of coronavirus cases worldwide nears 10 million.

The pope donated four ventilators each to Haiti, Venezuela, and Brazil, a country which has suffered more than 50,000 deaths from COVID-19. 

Ventilators were also distributed to Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Ecuador, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Ukraine, and the Dominican Republic through the local apostolic nunciatures, or Vatican embassies.

Pope Francis “expresses his closeness to countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those with more distressed healthcare systems,” the Office of Papal Charities reported in a statement June 26.  

The director of the World Health Organization (WHO) said June 24 that he anticipated that the world would reach a total of 10 million documented cases of COVID-19 by next week. 

As of June 26, more than 9.6 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide and 490,055 people have died after contracting the coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 

Earlier this week the WHO reported the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases, with more than 183,000 new infections documented worldwide in 24 hours.

A religious sister and nurse who has treated patients on the frontlines of Italy’s coronavirus crisis said June 23 that the coronavirus pandemic is not over and “the situation is very worrying” for many sisters in other parts of the world seeking to help the most vulnerable.

“I have been in contact with many sisters working in places like Jordan … in South Sudan, in Chad, in Ecuador, and I can see the sisters exposed to many risks with no equipment at all,” Sister Alicia Vacas said at a virtual symposium organized by the U.S. and British embassies to the Holy See.

“They don’t work in many cases in government hospitals. They don’t have access to tests. So they are receiving suspected cases and patients without any possibility of protecting themselves.”

She added: “For many other sisters who are not working in medical issues, they have to face this explosion … of poverty and social crisis, and many sisters … are dealing with starvation.” 

Pope Francis has donated ventilators on several other occasions during the pandemic. The pope, who was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, marked the feast of his namesake, St. George, with a gift of ventilators delivered to hospitals in Romania, Spain, and Italy on April 23.

Vatican News also reported that Pope Francis donated three ventilators to Zambia’s bishops’ conference in May. 

Archbishop Andrés Carrascosa Coso, the apostolic nuncio in Ecuador, told Vatican News June 26 that the delivery of the two ventilators in Quito was “a very heartfelt moment.”

“The two machines have been welcomed with great joy, because the pope's paternal gesture and attention has been understood for this country that suffers from a very delicate situation,” Carrascosa Coso said.

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