Global COVID-19 Response Improved Access to Oxygen urgently needed

21 June 2022 | Today, Germany joins a total of five donor countries, multilateral organizations, and foundations that announced examples of their collective contributions to address the large shortfalls in access to oxygen for patients, including those hospitalized with COVID-19, in low- and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) around the world. Currently holding the G7 presidency, Germany is once again contributing its “fair share” to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) in 2022, of which approximately 200 million US dollars go to Diagnostics and Therapeutics, including oxygen.

A patient suffering from Covid-19 in Tanzania is supplied with oxygen.

A patient suffering from Covid-19 in Tanzania is supplied with oxygen.

A patient suffering from Covid-19 in Tanzania is supplied with oxygen.

Svenja Schulze, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, said: “ACT-A needs another one billion US dollars to supply oxygen for critically ill patients. Germany has again provided its fair share in 2022 and remains committed to ensuring balanced financing of all ACT-A pillars. I call on other donors to do so, too! Joining forces through ACT-A will help to strengthen health systems and bolster pandemic prevention and preparedness – saving lives and benefiting us all!”

The ACT-A funding entails critical support to oxygen-related activities by the Global Fund and Unitaid, working to facilitate access, save lives now and prepare better for future crises. In addition, Germany invests in oxygen equipment and on-site training through its bilateral programming, for instance by cooperating with the Charité Berlin in Tanzania.

Even prior to COVID-19, access to medical oxygen was inadequate to meet the needs of health systems in most LMICs. In addition to COVID-19 patients, there is a vast patient population who also need oxygen therapy, including newborns in respiratory distress, children with pneumonia, sepsis, and/or congenital heart disease, adults with tuberculosis, malaria, and/or HIV/AIDS and/or chronic respiratory conditions like COPD, and patients requiring surgery.

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. Access to oxygen has become a key plank of the COVID-19 pandemic response. Oxygen is an essential treatment for severe COVID-19 – 75 percent of people hospitalized can survive with oxygen therapy alone. Without oxygen, these patients cannot survive.

During the pandemic, donors around the world have mobilized more than 800 million US dollars in grant financing to help LMICs 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. But, they are not enough. An additional one billion US dollars is needed to prevent further oxygen shortages in LMICs in the next year alone. More support from governments, foundations, high net worth individuals, and the private sector would be warmly welcomed by Germany. 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.

Donors making announcements today include the Government of Germany, The Global Fund, the Skoll Foundation, Unitaid, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.