The private sector says that 15 out of 30 firms that supply oxygen for hospitals have remained closed over lack of power, financial problems, and other challenges, leaving the country's hospitals with a severe lack of oxygen amidst a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan.
The 15 firms faced were faced with recession due to many challenges in their businesses and this led to their closure, the Afghanistan Chambers Federation said.
According to the federation, the government had promised to financially support the private sector, including factories, but some gas firms that produce oxygen lack enough electricity for their operations and are faced with financial problems.
“We would have overcome oxygen shortage (in hospitals) if the government helped the factories to resume their operations by providing them loans,” said Sakhi Ahmad Paiman, the deputy head of the federation.
“During the signing of contracts, there is a lot of demand from the government, but when it comes to payment, there is no cooperation from the government,” said Shir Ahmad, head of Maihan Dost Firm.
Workers at Maihan Dost Firm said that despite working round the clock, they cannot meet the demand of the market for medical oxygen.
“The COVID-19 cases have soared, but when there is no electricity, we cannot respond to our customers’ demands,” said Mohammad Karim, a worker at Maihan Dost Firm.
Some Kabul residents meanwhile complained about the lack of oxygen in the local market, saying that the price of medical oxygen has tripled over the last three days.
“I came here to buy one cylinder of oxygen. The price of one cylinder is 1,500 Afs ($19). Oxygen sellers usually hesitate to rent the cylinders and ask their customers to buy them which costs 13,000 Afs ($165) per cylinder,” said Basir, a Kabul resident.
“When we go to hospitals, they say that they hospitalize patients only If you provide oxygen on your own,” said Ali, a Kabul resident.
The Ministry of Health said that it is difficult to supply oxygen to all in need.
“The situation with the private companies producing oxygen has improved. We have seven firms in Kabul, but the main issue is that how long we should supply oxygen to patients,” the acting minister of public health, Waheed Majroh, said on Friday.