As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to blight low to middle income countries across the world, the Ministry of Health in Uganda has been provided with international aid relief in the form of 1,000 oxygen cylinders worth $233k (£170k) from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and financial support granted by the Government of Denmark.

In addition to the 1,000 medical oxygen cylinders (J-type with a capacity of 6,800L), the aid package will contain 1,000 oxygen cylinder regulators and humidifier bottles. 

Two major waves of Covid-19 have hit Uganda since its first confirmed case in March 2020, with the second wave resulting in an increase in morbidity and mortality of 2.7%, compared to the first wave (0.9%). 

The medical oxygen relief will help to replenish the country’s waning supply of the gas within hospitals, a major contributor to deaths associated with the disease. 

Stating that the additional oxygen cylinders are an effective response to the current health needs, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, Minister of Health, added, “They will strengthen the management of critically ill Covid-19 patients throughout the country.” 

The pandemic has exposed weak links and poor preparedness in the supply chain of medical oxygen in low to middle-income countries. 

Having already funded more than $15m (£11m) to help mitigate global oxygen shortages, international aid organisation Direct Relief has been heavily involved in helping supply healthcare providers in under-resourced communities with much-needed oxygen systems. 

In addition to its granting of more than 33,000 oxygen concentrators, the NGO has funded permanent oxygen-generating plants (pressure swing-adsorption – PSA plants) at hospitals to generate medical oxygen onsite, eliminating the need to rely on external sources for the essential gas. 

A collaboration between Direct Relief and public-private coalition Every Breath Counts has helped estimate the need for oxygen in low and middle-income countries through the ‘Find & Fix Map’, which represents data collected by the partners using a map and dashboard. 

Source: Every Breath Counts

The issue of poor preparedness was echoed by Aceng, who further recalled that Covid-19 has shown the need to strongly equip health facilities with adequate medical equipment to better respond to emergency health problems and future pandemics.

Nicolaj A. Hejberg Petersen, Danish Ambassador to Uganda, spoke about the support offered by Denmark, saying, “The Government of Denmark remains committed to supporting the Government of Uganda in its fight against Covid-19 and in promiting good health in the country.”

“We are proud to partner with the WHO to extend our support to the Ugandan government.”

Following delivery of the oxygen to health facilities across the country where supply issues exist, equipment will then be made available to treatment centres to ensure continuity of essential health services.