International efforts are now needed to stifle the global oxygen crisis. Photo: Id Irwan & Samuel Ramos, Unsplash


Global oxygen crisis in the pandemic

With the covid-19 pandemic, the sharply increased demand for oxygen has exceeded supply, especially in many low- and middle-income countries around the world. The situation is now critical for healthcare in these regions and the need for global support measures is urgent.

The coronavirus has caused enormous pressure on global healthcare systems. In connection with this, the demand for oxygen has increased enormously, which has resulted in many countries being severely affected by acute oxygen shortages.. In addition, several countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa have long had a shortage of medical oxygen. Now, however, the situation has drastically worsened with the increased need for covid-19-related care. This means that stocks of medical oxygen, which were limited even before the pandemic, are now running out.

The reason for the availability of medical oxygen is so limited in many low- and middle-income countries is mainly due to inadequate infrastructure and logistics related problems that make distribution more difficult.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization WHO more than half a million covid patients in low- and middle-income countries are affected daily by the acute shortage of oxygen. Peru, Malawi, Brazil and Afghanistan are just some of the most vulnerable countries that have sounded the alarm about critically low levels of medical oxygen during the pandemic. At the beginning of the second wave, Nigeria also went out with an international appeal for support as the demand for oxygen almost doubled. Now the already congested healthcare in the affected regions is close to collapse as the number of corona patients increases at the same time as oxygen stores are empty. This in turn leads to more deaths, but also to more people turning to the private market to buy medical oxygen on their own. The supply of oxygen then becomes a class issue because only those who have money can afford to pay for their own oxygen machines.

International efforts

Carl Otto Shell, chief physician at Nyköping Hospital, says in one interview with TV4 that the lack of oxygen in many cases creates unnecessary deaths in the corona, especially since it is such a basic and inexpensive treatment. Shell believes that increased cooperation and increased prioritization of the oxygen issue in global healthcare can facilitate production and distribution in the areas and regions where it is needed most. 

WHO is now working with several different international core organizations such as the World Bank, Unitaid and The Global Fund, among others, to combat the global oxygen crisis. Under the leadership of the WHO, these actors have now together created one Covid-19 Oxygen Emergency Taskforce. The contingency plan is partly based on an emergency and a more long-term assessment of the situation in the vulnerable countries in order to be able to meet the need for oxygen and prevent unnecessary deaths.

A multi-effective medical treatment 

Many more than covids suffer from the devastating consequences that can arise as a result of lack of oxygen. Medical oxygen is a simple but vital and multi-effective form of treatment, not only in covid-19, but also in other serious conditions such as malaria, sepsis, premature birth and pneumonia. According to Unicef Pneumonia is the disease that today causes the most deaths among children globally. More than 800 children under the age of 000 die each year from pneumonia, a figure that could easily have been reduced with an adequate supply of oxygen, according to a survey by Unicef.  

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