As COVID-19 hits poorer countries with struggling health care systems, soaring demand for oxygen highlights a stark global truth: Even the right to breathe depends on money.
In wealthy Europe and North America, hospitals treat oxygen as a basic need, much like water or electricity. It is delivered in liquid form by tanker truck and piped directly to the beds of patients with the novel coronavirus disease. Running short is all but unthinkable for a resource that literally can be pulled from the air.
In Spain, as coronavirus deaths climbed, engineers laid seven kilometers of tubing in less than a week to give a makeshift hospital with 1,500 beds a direct supply of pure oxygen.
But in poor countries, from Peru to Bangladesh, it is in dangerously short supply.
For this reason, the World Health Organization is hoping to raise over 250 million dollars to help provide oxygen to poor and middle-income countries where hospitals are poorly equipped.