Saving Lives

(Re)action of philanthropy 

Saving Lives

(Re)action of philanthropy 

Saving Lives: the (re)action of philanthropy during Covid-19

By: Raissa Testahy

The year 2020

This is said by Wendell Bornéo, a member of Sitawi's Philanthropy Management team. In March 2020, he was in the organization's office when he received the news that, starting the next day, everyone would work from home for 15 days. 

However, what was 15 days became three years. On March 11, 2020, Covid-19 was characterized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pandemic. In a few months, it was necessary to understand how to continue working, studying and living in the midst of the health crisis. 

N-95 masks, alcohol gel, cleaning of purchases and products. Around the world, 2020 was marked by a lot of fear and the absence of meetings.

However, in Brazil, the pandemic has further exposed social inequalities. Studies indicate that, in addition to age and the presence of comorbidities, the socioeconomic situation of populations increased the risk of contracting the disease: which made poorer people the main victims of the virus.

It was in this scenario that, in April 2020, during the height of the pandemic, the campaign was launched Saving Lives, to strengthen health professionals in public hospitals who are daily exposed to the virus. The program was an initiative of the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), in partnership with Sitawi, Bionexo and the Confederation of Santas Casas and Philanthropic Hospitals (CMB). 

Salvando Vidas had national operations. In this report you can see the history of two specific locations: Manaus and Rio de Janeiro.

In 2020, the Program benefited more than 779 philanthropic institutions and public hospitals - that serve the Unified Health System (SUS) in all regions of the country - with the purchase of PPE (personal protective equipment), such as masks, gloves, caps, aprons and alcohol gel.

War against the virus

Donations to the Hospital Beneficente Santa Helena, Cuiabá (MT)?

In mid-2020, the lack of inputs and PPE resulted in high demand and exorbitant prices in the market. Many hospitals no longer had enough N-95 masks, among other PPE, to protect healthcare professionals. 

“The crowded hospital, the crowded emergency room, lack of medicines and supplies: everything seemed like a war operation”, declares Márcio Nunes, Administrative Director of Hospital São Francisco na Providência de Deus - one of the philanthropic entities covered by the project. The professional comments that the first donation arrived at the hospital's most alarming moment.

HSF was a very active hospital in tackling the pandemic. In March 2020 we partnered with other institutions to offer beds for SUS patients. In the hospital alone we had more than 100 Covid beds", highlights Nunes.


What are philanthropic hospitals?

They are private, but non-profit, institutions that have a contract with the public system to provide care to SUS patients. At least 60% of the care offered by philanthropic hospitals must be allocated to the SUS. 

The year 2021

The arrival of new variants and the advancement of vaccination

In January 2021, the whole world was looking at Amazonas. This time, the state that has the largest forest in the world was experiencing a public calamity: the lack of oxygen in hospitals in Manaus. The state was the first in the country to suffer from the impacts of the second wave of Covid and was one of the saddest moments of the pandemic.

The sum of all the crises: economic, health and political resulted in a race for oxygen cylinders among the population. Faced with the increase in cases and death tolls from Covid-19, BNDES and its partners in the initiative decided to reopen the collection of donations for the program. In the second phase of Saving Lives, donations were only received from legal entities, in amounts starting from R$ 100 thousand. 

At this stage, oxygen cylinders were delivered to Manaus, divided between the hospitals Delphina Aziz (50 units), 28 de Agosto (30), Getúlio Vargas (10) and Platão Araújo (10). 

Furthermore, Matchfunding Salvando Vidas donated 20 oxygen plants to Brazilian hospitals. Donations support the structural reinforcement of the benefited health units, necessary to help in the treatment of Covid-19 and sequelae associated with the disease, also leaving a legacy for the population of these locations.


Cylinder deliveries in Manaus - photos: Bruno Kelly

Doses of hope

As Lulu Santos sings, "Nothing that was will be; back to the way it once was; everything passes, everything will always pass". In the same month marked by despair in Manaus, in the city of São Paulo we began to hope for better days. Mônica Calazans, 54 years old, black woman and nurse, was the first person to be immunized in the country.  

In December of the same year, Brazil had already 80% from its vaccinated population with two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccine in the arm and mask on the face, another pandemic year ended, with sad milestones, but above all with hope and a lot of solidarity.

The year 2022

From stone jungle to remote forest

Long distances, difficult access, transport and communications: bringing medical care and supplies to riverside and indigenous communities in the Amazon is no longer an easy task in normal times. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the challenge was doubled. 

It is to the west of the State of Pará, more specifically between the Tapajós-Arapiuns Extractive Reserve (Resex) and the Tapajós National Forest (Flona), that the only transportation route for riverside peoples is located: the Tapajós River. It is the main route for transport and communication for riverside communities on the Amazon, Tapajós and Arapiuns rivers, located in the municipalities of Santarém, Aveiro and Belterra.

Carrying health care, hygiene and Covid-19 prevention kits, the Abaré II hospital boat, whose name means “friend” in Tupi Guarani, it was renovated with resources from the Saving Lives campaign between 2021 and 2022.

In addition to structural revitalization, painting services, installation of nautical, communication and safety equipment, the vessel received new and modern hospital equipment and PPE.   

This was possible thanks to a combination of efforts, largely supported with resources from the Saúde e Alegria Project through its partners such as Matchfunding Salvando Vidas, Fundação OAK, Takeda, and counterparts from Santarém City Hall and a parliamentary amendment by Deputy Airton Faleiro for purchasing equipment. In addition to the essential role of social organizations, community and union leaders and movements of quilombola and indigenous populations.

“Seeing the impact of Sitawi and these initiatives up close is very significant, because it makes me understand the importance of my work and that of all other organizations involved towards a common goal: building a better world for people”, highlights Victor Ribeiro , Philanthropy Management Manager at Sitawi.

Priscilla Batista, analyst responsible for Salvando Vidas processes, gets emotional when remembering the visit to the vessel. "Being there, seeing the boat, moved me a lot. People really needed care. It was very gratifying to see the importance of my work.”

Challenges and innovation

Even with the scenario full of uncertainties and challenges, we had an exponential growth in the number of people collaborating and we were able to develop solutions to mitigate the impact of the disease. When asking the people interviewed for a word that defines Saving Lives, all highlighted innovation. 

"The pandemic unfolded and the project continued to innovate and modulate itself to meet society’s needs. In the final stretch, we started buying refrigerators for vaccines. How do you buy a refrigerator? How do you purchase oxygen plants? Was everything done quickly and with a high level of compliance and transparency", highlights Wendell Borneo. 

 "The project starts with a drawing and we redesign it over time. Always attentive to BNDES regulations and seeking agility. Was it quite challenging", says Sandro Ambrosio, manager in the Industrial Complex and Health Services department at BNDES. 

It was difficult not to feel overwhelmed by so much sad news during the pandemic. From Sunday to Sunday, what we saw on television looked like scenes from a science fiction film. And for those who worked daily to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, it was even more complicated.

 “We experienced this intensely. Every report we produced, for example, we had to report the situation in that location that would receive the donations. Emotionally it was very difficult, we were working on a project that helped reduce the number of deaths, so was time life?, recalls Sandro. 

In the race against time to raise funds and make purchases with suppliers, to then deliver to hospitals across the country, agility and flexibility were required. "Personally, everyone was in a delicate situation with family members and afraid of the disease. Working on a project linked to the pandemic and monitoring mortality rates all the time and the situation in each place meant realizing that the sooner we did our work, the sooner PPE would arrive in those locations" highlights Carla Vilela, BNDES analyst responsible for Salvando Vidas.

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Transformative power: the union between public, private and civil society

The positive results of the campaign were generated by the union between different parties. Even with the end of the most difficult times (in May this year, the WHO declared an end to the COVID-19 pandemic), the legacy remains for the beneficiaries and those involved in the action. 

The resources allowed the purchase of almost 80 million pieces of Personal Protective Equipment, including masks, gloves, caps, aprons and alcohol gel, for healthcare professionals and patients. With the oxygen crisis in several regions of Brazil, the project also directed efforts towards the acquisition of cylinders and plants. In total, more than 9 million people throughout Brazil were impacted. 

"Saving Lives will be marked in our professional and personal lives forever. It is a very proud project, which has won awards, being recognized for its importance. It was the most delicate moment in Brazilian public health, and no matter how much tension we experienced, did we feel like we were helping and doing our part", comments Carla.

In the second half of this year the project ends and the last donation will be delivered. What remains is the legacy and the feeling of duty accomplished.

the impact

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