21 June 2022 | Press releases

US$ 83 million of investments from Unitaid to address global inequities in access to oxygen will drive long term benefits, Unitaid urges other donors to commit more funding for medical oxygen

Boilerplate Press Release by Oxygen Donors

Today, Unitaid urgently calls on other donors to commit more funding for medical oxygen to help close the US$1 billion funding gap in the oxygen response. Its US$ 83 million of total investments to date to address global inequities in access to oxygen will drive long term benefits for low- and middle-income countries. But more funding is needed to save lives now and support countries prepare for future health emergencies.

Unitaid joined a total of 5 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. Addressing global inequities in access to oxygen, since the beginning of the pandemic, Unitaid has invested US$ 83 million towards increasing liquid oxygen availability, repairing broken oxygen equipment, upskilling biomedical engineers, and supporting countries to identify needs and develop strategic national oxygen roadmaps.

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 US$800 million 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 US$1 billion 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 Unitaid. 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.


Unitaid Press Release

US$ 83 million of investments from Unitaid to address global inequities in access to oxygen will drive long term benefits, Unitaid urges other donors to commit more funding for medical oxygen

Geneva, 21 June 2022 – Unitaid has invested US$ 83 million to date to address global inequities in access to oxygen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, filling an immediate access gap for safe and affordable oxygen to those who needed it most and laying the groundwork to improve access to oxygen over the long term.

These investments support the work of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Oxygen Emergency Taskforce, led by Unitaid, to expand sustainable access to adequate, affordable oxygen solutions such as bulk liquid oxygen, oxygen generation systems and other important oxygen equipment in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

The Unitaid-funded grants have helped to increase liquid oxygen supplies, lower costs, strengthen infrastructure, expand technical capacity, and ensure safe use of medical oxygen.

As part of broader partner efforts to assess the oxygen needs of over 100 countries and access funding available through the Global Fund, the World Bank and other partners’ funding mechanisms, Unitaid’s investments directly supported this work in 18 countries.

Among other significant progress and achievements made to date, Unitaid has procured more than US$ 15 million in emergency supplies, delivering nearly 30,000 cylinders, 2,000 concentrators, more than 5,000 pulse oximeters – an essential portable device that can detect low oxygen in the blood – and 3 PSA plants for oxygen, to 33 countries.

Thanks to Unitaid’s leadership, an agreement with two major gas companies, Air Liquide and Linde Group, was successfully brokered securing ~15% price reductions for bulk liquid oxygen versus current pricing, between 10 to 15% reductions for cylinders and up to 43% reductions in filled cylinder pricing, paving the way for long term agreements for access to liquid oxygen. With this, 19 tanks for bulk liquid oxygen for LMICs were reserved and countries such as Zambia and Ghana, were able to meet surge demand across several hospitals.

Unitaid is now exploring how to support countries to build robust oxygen systems that can meet current needs and prepare for future health emergencies, and to ensure the market is ready to respond to demand surges. For that purpose, Unitaid and MedAccess, will launch in the coming days a call for expressions of interest* to local and regional manufacturers of liquid and gaseous oxygen to receive financial and technical support to expand affordable oxygen supply in sub-Saharan Africa.  The end goal is to identify opportunities to support suppliers and increase the availability and affordability of medical oxygen for countries.

But more funding is needed to scale-up medical oxygen supply and prepare countries for future health threats.

Oxygen is a lifesaving treatment but also a high-return health investment that will keep on saving lives beyond the pandemic and significantly reduce deaths among newborns, children, women in childbirth, and adults with both communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Investing in oxygen will pay dividends now and going forward, as a critical foundation for future health emergencies. Therefore, Unitaid urgently calls on other donors for more funding in medical oxygen to help close the US$1 billion funding gap in the oxygen response.

* The call for expression of interest will be published here.


About the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Oxygen Emergency Taskforce (Oxygen Taskforce)

The Oxygen Taskforce was launched in February 2021 to bring together key partners already working to address critical oxygen gaps, as part of a coordinated COVID-19 response. The Oxygen Taskforce is led by Unitaid, under the Therapeutics Pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. Partner organizations include Unitaid, WHO (and the Biomedical Consortium it coordinates), UNICEF, The Global Fund, the World Bank, UNOPS, the Every Breath Counts coalition, CHAI, PATH, Save the Children, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Access to Medicine Foundation, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.


Media contact:

For more information and media requests:

Sarah Mascheroni

Communications officer

Email: mascheronisa@unitaid.who.int

Mobile: +41 79 728 73 11

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