Oxygen is an Essential Medicine Too
More than half a million COVID-19 patients living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are estimated to need oxygen treatment every day, stated the World Health Organization (WHO).
The supply of oxygen was constrained prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been exacerbated by increased, global demand.
New assessments announced on February 25, 2021, show US $90 million in new funding is required to meet the needs of up to 20 LMICs.
The COVID-19 Oxygen Emergency Taskforce is bringing together key organizations working on oxygen access under the ACT-Accelerator Therapeutics pillar.
Taskforce partners will work together to measure oxygen demand, work with financing partners, and secure oxygen supplies and technical support for the worst-affected countries.
Oxygen is an essential medicine, and despite being vital for the effective treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, access in LMICs is limited due to cost, infrastructure, and logistical barriers.
Research estimates that more than half a million people in LMICs currently need 1.1 million cylinders of oxygen per day, with 25 countries presently reporting surges in demand, the majority in Africa.
Unitaid and Wellcome have announced they will make an immediate contribution of up to US $20 million in total for the emergency response.
Dr. Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of Unitaid, commented, “This is a global emergency that needs a truly global response, both from international organizations and donors. Many of the countries seeing this demand struggled before the pandemic to meet their daily oxygen needs.”
The COVID-19 Oxygen Emergency Taskforce brings together key organizations that have been working to improve access to oxygen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The partners will focus on four key objectives as a part of an emergency response plan: measuring acute and longer-term oxygen needs in LMICs; connecting countries to financing partners for their assessed oxygen requirements; and supporting the procurement and supply of oxygen, along with related products and services.
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, said: “Oxygen is a simple medical intervention that remains in short supply for far too many around the world. (Increasing supply) will help to improve health systems and health outcomes beyond COVID-19 in the long term, including for the many newborns and children who require oxygen to survive.”
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, pneumonia claimed the lives of 2.5 million people in 2019. The pandemic has exacerbated this problem, particularly in ‘double-burden’ countries which are contending with high levels of pneumonia and COVID-19.
Unitaid is a global health agency engaged in finding innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases more quickly, cheaply and effectively, in low- and middle-income countries.
The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator is a new global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
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