Sylhet freedom fighter Ehia Ahmed died on June 22 of breathing complications. His family desperately searched for a cylinder of oxygen when the elderly person developed breathing issues.
But they failed to provide him with the supportive respiratory measure as both the oxygen demand and the price has skyrocketed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"We searched almost every medical equipment shop and hospital for an oxygen cylinder. We finally managed to get hold of one for Tk28,000, but it was too late. My maternal uncle died before we could bring him the oxygen," said Ehia's nephew Hossain Ahmed Sujat.
Such tragic incidents in Sylhet are frequent as oxygen cylinders have almost vanished from the market since the Covid-19 spread — putting patients with breathing issues in a fix.
Against such a backdrop, 'Abdul Jalil Foundation' — a voluntary organisation — has stood by the patients in the city. The foundation is offering cylinders of oxygen for free, and delivering them to patients' homes.
Anyone in Sylhet can avail the free service by calling the hotlines 01733-309862 and 01733-309863.
The foundation introduced the service last Saturday and the volunteers said they have received many phone calls since then.
Prominent Sylhet businessmen Abdul Jalil, who launched the free service, said the foundation has been providing many humanitarian services to people since the virus outbreak.
Jalil said they have arranged two vehicles to deliver the oxygen cylinders to patients. He said the capacity of the welfare service will be extended in the future.
Awami League central committee Organising Secretary Shafiul Alam Chowdhury Nadel is involved in the humanitarian service. He said, "Not only coronavirus infected, but also other patients often require respiratory support. The initiative has been taken so than no one in Sylhet will have to suffer from a shortage of oxygen."
Dr Ehsanuzzaman Khan, a volunteer of the free-oxygen service, said they deliver the oxygen to patients upon receiving a phone call and check the person's blood-oxygen level. If the primary test shows that he or she requires oxygen support, they provide the service.
In the meantime, three volunteer organisations ─ Ongikar Bangladesh, Sylhel; Pay it Forward and Manusher Jonno Foundation – have also taken a similar initiative in Sylhet city. Spokesperson of the volunteer platform Advocate Monir Hossain said they will be starting the free oxygen-delivery service to patients from next week.
Sylhet residents can call to 01715017820 and 01842823332 to avail the service.