In May 2021, with US$20 million from Unitaid, CHAI and PATH announced a new program to procure and supply medical oxygen equipment, working in partnership with ministries of health in nine countries.
No one, no matter where they live, should die for lack of oxygen – a condition we can diagnose easily, treat affordably, and prevent globally.
Yet, for many countries, access to oxygen therapy and the equipment to produce and deliver that therapy has been challenging for years. The COVID-19 pandemic only made the situation worse.
Almost half of all hospitals in low- and middle-income countries have an unreliable supply of medical oxygen or lack it entirely. Even fewer health centers have pulse oximeters – devices that measure blood oxygen levels – which help health workers determine if a patient needs oxygen therapy.
To address the increasingly deadly lack of oxygen access in some countries during the pandemic, PATH and CHAI, and the Every Breath Counts coalition, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, collaborated in 2020 on the COVID-19 Respiratory Care Response Coordination project. We worked with Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Lao PDR, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Vietnam, and Zambia.
The project supported country leaders to develop comprehensive respiratory care plans to meet the demands of COVID-19 and improve long-term access to oxygen and other essential respiratory care equipment within broader health systems.
Then, in 2021, CHAI and PATH, with funding from Unitaid, announced a new program to procure the oxygen equipment countries needed to execute their respiratory care plans. Working with ministries of health in DRC, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda, and Zambia, we developed equipment priorities and selected vendors to procure and deliver the equipment.
Over the past two years, CHAI and our partners have worked as quickly as possible to help governments get ahead of COVID-19 now, with an eye to the future. We have helped develop or update 15 national medical oxygen policies and trained almost 20,000 health workers and biomedical equipment technicians to use the over 300,000 pieces of oxygen equipment and supplies delivered to partner countries.
Supporting our partner countries
Improving access to oxygen starts with understanding the gap between what is currently available and the forecasted need. This data has been invaluable to addressing barriers to oxygen therapy in Cambodia. Learn more.
Ethiopia & Nigeria
When COVID-19 hit, demand for oxygen far exceeded previous needs in Ethiopia and Nigeria, but prior investments allowed both countries to set up a strong foundation for treating severe cases. Learn more about Ethiopia and Nigeria.
As part of their COVID-19 response, India prioritized immediate procurement and fast-tracked commissioning of PSA plants and concentrators. These investments have made the health system stronger, able to sustainably provide oxygen for COVID-19 patients and beyond. Learn more.
Lao PDR, Liberia, & Zambia
Using data collected from public hospitals throughout the country, Lao PDR and Zambia are examples of countries that are developing national roadmaps to increase access to oxygen and ensure lifesaving treatment is available to those who need it. Liberia has already completed and validated their roadmap process. Learn more about Lao PDR, Liberia, and Zambia.
Medical oxygen equipment is only useful if health workers have the skills to maintain and deliver the oxygen to patients struggling to breath. In Rwanda, hospital staff were trained in respiratory care. Learn more.