With the COVID-19 pandemic has come a global spike in the demand for oxygen, and 25 countries – most of them on the African continent – are reporting a surge in demand they cannot meet.
To that end, global health officials announced Thursday the creation of a new COVID-19 Oxygen Emergency Taskforce. The taskforce is led by Wellcome and Unitaid in partnership with a consortium led by the World Health Organization.
It says it needs US$90 million to meet the immediate demands in up to 20 low- and middle-income countries that include Malawi and Nigeria, but the costs rise to $1.6 billion in the coming 12 months.
“Oxygen is life-saving and it is imperative to move faster,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO Health Emergencies Program. “WHO has been working through the Biomedical Consortium to bring the technical, clinical and procurement partners together with about US$80 million of biomedical equipment procured for low and middle-income countries.”
The Oxygen Taskforce will continue in that vein to improve oxygen access for patients, especially where both COVID and pneumonia patients are recorded in higher numbers.
Other taskforce partners include the Global Fund, World Bank, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and PATH.
“This is a global emergency that needs a truly global response, both from international organizations and donors,” said Unitaid executive director Dr. Philippe Duneton. “Many of the countries seeing this demand struggled before the pandemic to meet their daily oxygen needs.
“Now it’s more vital than ever that we come together to build on the work that has already been done, with a firm commitment to helping the worst-affected countries as quickly as possible.”
Image: WHO/Fabeha Monir