Ventilator shortages can be devastating at hot spots of COVID-19, a problem that the vast majority of countries have faced, but which has the greatest impact on those with a declining health system.

To compensate for this shortage, a group of volunteers are working to provide manual respirators that will later be donated to hospitals in four countries with little access to them: Nicaragua, Nigeria, Haiti and Indonesia.

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The initiative is from the group called the Ventilator Project, which in cooperation with various humanitarian agencies in Rhode Island, USA, including the University of Rhode Island, are producing hundreds of mini-respirators.

“We immediately thought to connect with the Indonesian government to see if help was needed. And we are delighted with this partnership. And we are now in the process of sending 140 fans to Papua, ”said Peter Snyder of the University of Rhode Island and a member of the project.

In the case of Nicaragua, according to the project’s website, they are working to send 12 respirators and the cost to modify and send them is $ 1,390, and coordination is carried out through the Ingenio San Antonio, located in Chichigalpa 122 kilometers from Managua.

As Snyder explained to Voice of America, these ventilators are actually modified from personal breathing aids, CPAP and BiPAP machines that are often used by patients with sleep apnea. They were donated by Americans in various states.

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“What we said was, ok, we have 650 systems, let’s combine them with everything a doctor would need and then look for doctors. And in the case of Indonesia, we were able to contact the Indonesian Ministry of Health as well as the Papua government through the University of Rhode Island, which has partnerships with both organizations, “added Snyder.

He further clarified that each modification of the CPAP or BiPAP machine to transform it into a mini respirator uses parts that cost around $ 120.

“In late February I remember seeing that many states were starting to prepare as the (pandemic) came in, and it was very widely reported that there was a shortage of fans and that even if states could order and pay for all of these fans, they would not They could be made, they wouldn’t arrive on time. And suddenly, it seemed very familiar to me to see this critical infrastructure in this case to treat patients and realize that it wasn’t going to be available in some places, “said Alex Horenstein, founder of the Ventilator Project at VOA.

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Since the initial campaign, only 650 of the 850 donated machines were still in a condition to be modified. The Fan Project got to work and modified them to help countries in need. While coronavirus cases have increased in recent weeks in many US states, Rhode Island remains under control.

Students at the University of Rhode Island clean CPAP and BiPAP equipment, which are then modified as respirators that are shipped to countries where they are needed. Image taken from the University of Rhode Island website.

With less demand for ventilators at local hospitals, the Ventilator Project searched elsewhere. Indonesia, specifically the province of Papua, was chosen because the University of Rhode Island has maintained continuous partnerships with local government.

“The University of Rhode Island has had a long relationship with Indonesia. We have a large amount of research that we have engaged in across the country, including Papua, but it is not limited only to the state of Papua, mainly in the area of ​​fisheries management, “Peter Snyder told VOA.

Some Indonesian Papua students studying at the university were delighted that these mini respirators were heading to their home province.

“The cases of coronavirus in Papua are increasing. Therefore, it is good that they are sent there, “said Golda Wihyawari, a student at the University of Rhode Island and originally from that area. Also, Marike Tenawe, another Indonesian student at the University of Rhode Island, said she was happy. “I am happy that the assistance comes from our school,” she assured Voice of America.

The Fan Project doesn’t want to stop there. They are collecting money through the fundraising site, GoFundMe, to collect and modify more mini respirators to distribute to other countries where such devices are in extreme shortage.