Over the last seven days, we’ve been looking at my top 10 stories across the industrial gas year – and what a year it has been. Across the top 10 we’re talking hydrogen, synthetic fuels, ASU growth, medical oxygen milestones, and so much more besides.
Today, we’re into the top three and a simply inescapable story on so many levels.
It’s been the story of the year, in fact the story of the last two years: medical oxygen.
We already revealed just over a week ago that medical oxygen was the subject of our most-read story of the year, but it’s an arguably even bigger story that broke in June (2021) and offered a vision of a new path forward in this most critical of gases for human life.
Still dominated by Covid-19
Covid-19 has continued to dominate how we live and work across the world, and that remains an ongoing situation as I write this, with restrictions re-introduced in various countries and regions as new variants come to light.
It was in the first half of the year that medical oxygen was in such fervent focus, during the first throes of second and third waves of Covid sweeping the globe.
We watched with despair as Brazil, India and others struggled to cope with renewed waves of the virus and the fragilities of the (medical) oxygen supply chain that were so poignantly exposed.
Amidst this maelstrom in medical oxygen, we had the news in June that Air Liquide and Linde had entered into unprecedented agreements to provide increased access to medical oxygen in low and middle-income countries – seen as a major milestone in both in the fight against Covid-19 and in the gases industry as a whole.
A big breakthrough
The agreements came after months intense engagement with the world’s major oxygen suppliers by the Covid-19 Oxygen Emergency Taskforce, and were lauded by the international community.
The agreements were made in the form of a non-binding Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) and have been entered into on a non-exclusive basis; agreements with other medical oxygen suppliers are still being pursued, even as I write this at the close of the year, gasworld understands.
The taskforce had been working together over the four months prior to the agreements, to address the global oxygen crisis, building on the strong track record of the agencies involved. This unprecedented collaboration with industry aims to overcome fundamental issues such as unstable funding commitments and insufficient infrastructure, which have limited the availability of medical oxygen.
Zachary Katz, Vice-President of Essential Medicines at CHAI (the Clinton Health Access Initiative), a member of the taskforce, said, “These agreements pave the way for wider use of medical oxygen at a time when the world continues to suffer acute shortages. We applaud Air Liquide and Linde and look forward to working together to expand access to oxygen to those most in need.”
Read the full story and all about the significance of the agreements here:
Must not lose momentum…
Despite this major breakthrough, supply chain challenges remain in a number of LMICs and, speaking in an exclusive interview with gasworld in November, Robert Matiru – Director of the Programme Division at Unitaid – was clear that we cannot afford to lose momentum in medical oxygen.
For many low and middle-income countries (LMICs) the difficulties in accessing oxygen are systemic and long-term, and Matiru explained that in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the lack of access to medical oxygen is threatening entire health systems in countries around the world.