The Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) has received $25 million in new funding commitments from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The ELMA Foundation to help nine governments build comprehensive oxygen ecosystems that will last long after the immediate needs of the COVID-19 pandemic have been met.
The program will support governments to provide lifesaving medical oxygen care safely and affordably to patients who need it in Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Laos PDR, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda. Lack of access to medical oxygen contributes to over one million deaths per year.
Translating the pandemic response into long-term, quality services that save lives requires working with the public and private sectors to build the underlying systems necessary to provide reliable, quality care. This includes keeping oxygen equipment up and running for its full lifespan and providing health workers with the right tools, processes, and practices to save lives.
“Investing in oxygen before the pandemic gave Ethiopia a head start. COVID treatment centers were set up in facilities that had already received oxygen equipment, training, and operating guidelines. Building on this, we used the challenge of the pandemic to intensively expand access to oxygen across the country,” said H.E Dr. Lia Tadesse, Minister of Health Ethiopia. “Now, we must keep up the momentum to ensure the oxygen systems our government and other stakeholders like the private sector have set up can be maintained and expanded for many years to come.”
Prior to the pandemic, much of the world took access to oxygen for granted – however, headlines reporting oxygen shortages, and their tragic consequences, have changed this. Oxygen is an essential treatment for severe COVID-19: 75 percent of people hospitalized can survive with oxygen therapy alone.
In addition to COVID-19 patients, there is a vast population who also need oxygen therapy. This includes children with pneumonia, which is the largest single killer of children worldwide, as well as newborns in respiratory distress, adults with sepsis or congenital heart disease, tuberculosis, malaria, or HIV, chronic respiratory conditions, and patients requiring surgery.
“To make medical oxygen accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live, we must focus on creating long-term sustainable systems,” said Dr. Neil Buddy Shah, CHAI CEO. “That means we need more training, better equipment maintenance, and more oxygen plants. This new funding will help our partner governments address the current gaps, better prepare for future pandemics, and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and adults.”
The $25 million in new funding will get CHAI and our partner countries started on long-term oxygen solutions. However, the work is far from over with a $10 million gap remaining in the project. More than $60 million is needed to implement the program in 15 additional countries.
During the pandemic, donors around the world mobilized more than $800 million in grant financing to help countries avert oxygen shortages. These investments have already helped millions of patients and will be vital components of systems needed to respond to future health emergencies.
However, an additional $1 billion is needed to prevent further oxygen shortages in low- and middle-income countries in the next year alone. More support from governments, foundations, high-net-worth individuals, and the private sector would be warmly welcomed by CHAI. People sick with severe COVID-19 or other conditions must not be left to die simply due to a lack of oxygen in medical facilities.
That is why CHAI is joining six donor countries, multilateral organizations, and foundations that recently announced examples of their contributions to address the large shortfalls in access to oxygen for patients, including those hospitalized with COVID-19, in low- and middle-income countries around the world.
Donors who have made recent commitments include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Government of Germany, The Global Fund, the Skoll Foundation, Unitaid, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
CHAI is a global health organization committed to saving lives and reducing the burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries. We work with our partners to help strengthen the capabilities of governments and the private sector to create and sustain high-quality health systems.