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Africa sees big shortage of oxygen during COVID-19 pandemic

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Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for affordable and sustainable access to oxygen has been growing in low and middle-income countries, which are already facing limited supply.

Currently, in developing countries, more than half a million people are estimated to need oxygen cylinders per day.

Many countries in Africa in particular are reporting spikes in demand.

“In Africa, several parameters make things more complicated in terms of access to oxygen," Dr. Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of UNITAID, a United Nations investigative agency, told Africanews.

"First, the infrastructure, that is to say, the hospital organisation, oxygen distribution networks which are not yet installed everywhere.

"As for those which exist, they require technical assistance for their commissioning. We are in the process of implementing other solutions, namely the extractors of oxygen."

He told Africanews instead of delivering oxygen in shells, devices are connected to a source of solar electricity and make it possible to manufacture oxygen on site.

The oxygen can then be directly delivered to the people who need it.

But he said, "we also need the means to deliver it and to have high flow oxygen flows that allow people to be taken care of.”

Duneton said "the first step is to make the diagnosis, that is to say, to identify what are the needs and where they are located."

**Finding solutions **

In an attempt to solve this problem, international solidarity organisations and the World Health Organization launched a task force a month ago to manage the oxygen crisis related to VIDOC-19.

The new task force has identified an immediate funding requirement of $90 million to address major oxygen access problems in some 20 countries, including Malawi, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

"That was the meaning of the first intervention of the group which very quickly identified needs in about twenty countries, including fifteen African countries which have the most acute needs. This first wave of countries concerns, for example, Senegal, Chad, the DRC but also Nigeria which has identified a very important need.

"Malawi is also affected. This is not a unique situation in each of the countries.

"We have seen tension in South Africa and fortunately today we see that the epidemic's dynamic is decreasing in this country, so the needs are very directly linked to the dynamics of the pandemic.