18 March 2024 | Press releases

Japan commits US$7.3 million to Unitaid to strengthen access to lifesaving medical oxygen in Kenya and Tanzania

Key points

Unitaid welcomes Japan’s announcement to provide US$7.3 million to expand access to reliable, sustainable supplies of medical oxygen in Kenya and Tanzania. The new funding supports Unitaid’s broader strategic objective to expand access, lower prices and increase supply of medical oxygen in countries across Africa.

“The lack of medical oxygen during the COVID-19 pandemic was a brutal wake-up call to the world. Health facilities without sustainable supplies of medical oxygen were unable to treat their patients, leading to countless preventable deaths,” said Dr. Philippe Duneton, Unitaid’s Executive Director. “But medical oxygen is needed beyond pandemics. For children with pneumonia, mothers in childbirth and newborns in respiratory distress, access to medical oxygen is the difference between life and death. Japan is an important partner in supporting countries to achieve universal health coverage. Building sustainable, reliable access to medical oxygen for all patients who need it is a key component of a strong health system.”

Medical oxygen is a lifesaving medicine with no substitute. It is essential for surgery, emergency and critical care, and for treating severe respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and pneumonia. Medical oxygen is also critical for treating pregnant women with complications, newborns in respiratory distress and people with severe malaria, advanced HIV disease and tuberculosis (TB), among other critical health issues. For example, strengthening oxygen systems worldwide could cut hospital-based pneumonia deaths among children by half and overall hospital deaths of children under 5 by a quarter.

As the G7 Presidency in 2023, Japan emphasized the importance of achieving more resilient, equitable and sustainable universal health coverage to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, and to achieve the targets in Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good health and well-being. Ensuring equitable, sustainable, affordable and timely access to medical oxygen is critical to all these objectives.

“Access to medical oxygen is a critical component of a strong health system, and helps countries achieve universal health coverage,” said Ambassador AKAHORI Takeshi, Assistant Minister and Director-General for Global Issues of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. “This new funding will support Kenya and Tanzania improve patient care today and be prepared to respond to future crises, saving lives.”

The new project will focus on liquid oxygen, a form of medical oxygen that shows the most significant potential in improving long-term, sustainable, and affordable access to oxygen in low-resource settings. Stored in large tanks at medical facilities, liquid oxygen is more stable, easier to handle and 20% less expensive on a per-unit basis than oxygen produced through other systems like pressure swing adsorption plants. It also doesn’t require electricity to produce, which is a critical element in countries where electrical grids face interruptions in electrical supply.

Unitaid is a global leader in building sustainable, reliable and affordable access to medical oxygen and oxygen equipment in low- and middle-income countries. Increasing access to oxygen is more than simply increasing supply; through Unitaid’s market-shaping approach, we work with partners to introduce innovations such as better quality, more affordable oxygen delivery systems; strengthen health security by building regional oxygen production capabilities; create healthy competitive markets by negotiating lower prices with existing suppliers; facilitate skills transfer and training for emerging suppliers to meet quality standards and further lowering prices and creating more competitive markets; and to support governments and health facilities to determine the most appropriate oxygen system for their needs.

To take our approach to scale, in 2023 we co-founded the Global Oxygen Alliance (GO2AL), a partnership that includes more than 20 health partners and representatives from civil society and affected communities, co-chaired by Unitaid and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. GO2AL aims to convert the investments made during the COVID-19 pandemic into lives saved, including financing to expand production, lowering the price of oxygen and providing technical support to governments, ensuring sustainable oxygen systems are a building block for health system strengthening, universal health coverage and pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.


Media contact:

For more information and media requests:

Hervé Verhoosel

Head of Communications and Spokesperson

M: +33 6 22 59 73 54

verhooselh@unitaid.who.int


About Unitaid

We save lives by making critical health products available and affordable for people in low- and middle-income countries. We work with partners to identify innovative treatments, tests and tools, help tackle the market barriers that are holding them back, and get them to the people who need them most – fast. Since we were created in 2006, we have unlocked access to more than 100 groundbreaking health products to help address the world’s biggest health challenges, including HIV, TB, and malaria; women’s and children’s health; and pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Every year, more than 170 million people benefit from the products we’ve helped roll out.

https://unitaid.org

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