The immense global impact of COVID-19 has led to oxygen shortages in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Governments are still struggling to meet surging needs, resulting in ongoing reports of deaths from a lack of access to medical oxygen in many countries.
On 7 October, partners from the The Access to COVID-19 Tools-Accelerator (ACT-A) Oxygen Emergency Taskforce—including the Access to Medicine Foundation, the Every Breath Counts Coalition, World Health Organization, UNICEF, Unitaid, the Global Fund, PATH, and Save the Children—co-hosted a special briefing for G20 Missions to the United Nations on access to medical oxygen during the pandemic. Representatives joined from China, the EU, India, Indonesia, and the UK among others.
Since the establishment of the ACT-Accelerator Oxygen Emergency Response Taskforce in February 2021, member agencies have been working hard to increase the support available to help LMICs prevent further oxygen shortages. The 7 October event provided a platform to discuss progress to date on accelerating access to oxygen and to highlight remaining gaps—including the urgent need for more funding for the ACT-A Oxygen Emergency Taskforce.
The briefing featured a special session with representatives from WHO, Unitaid (co-chair of the ACT-A Oxygen Emergency Task Force), the Global Fund, the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, UNICEF, Path India and Save the Children. Panellists shared critical information and experiences regarding the deployment of emergency oxygen throughout the pandemic and how best to support governments in meeting their oxygen needs. The briefing also drew attention to the existing mechanisms available for countries to make use of and made the case for continued and additional investments in medical oxygen from G20 governments. A common theme shared by all speakers was the need to prepare beyond the pandemic and build resilient health systems in LMICs.
Nata Menabde, Executive Director, Office of the World Health Organization, United Nations
Robert Matiru, Director, Programme Management, Unitaid
Harley Feldbaum, Head of Strategy and Policy, The Global Fund
The Honourable Dr Lia Tadesse, Minister of Health, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Eva Kadilli, Director, Supply Division, UNICEF
Mohammad Ameel, Head of Primary Healthcare, Technology & Innovations, PATH India
Gwen Hines, CEO, Save the Children UK