The development of a durable, state-of-the-art oxygen concentrator that operates in challenging environments.
Every year, 4.2 million children suffering from severe pneumonia in low and middle-income countries urgently need oxygen to survive. This life-saving gas helps patients breathe when they cannot do so on their own – whether it be children with pneumonia or hypoxemia, newborns and mothers with birth complications, or patients with severe COVID-19.
Oxygen concentrators - machines that create oxygen by removing nitrogen from ambient air - have been used as cost-effective solutions. These portable devices, in most cases, are the best option for remote and/or low resource areas where no oxygen plants nor cylinder delivery networks exist.
Currently, the best concentrators currently on the market are being distributed by UNICEF and saving thousands of lives. These devices were first developed as at-home medical solutions for places where the climate is controlled (e.g. with air conditioning) and electricity is reliable. Unfortunately, some environments where UNICEF works can be unstable, with faulty power systems and dusty, humid and hot climates. This means that although the equipment works well in many cases, operational challenges still exist that must be addressed.
Every 39 seconds
a child dies from pneumonia. Many of these deaths are preventable
4.2 million children
with severe pneumonia in low and middle-income countries need oxygen to survive each year
15,000+ oxygen concentrators
were procured in 2020 as part of UNICEF’s COVID-19 response
UNICEF’s Oxygen Concentrator Innovation Project aims to develop a more durable, state-of-the-art oxygen concentrator to work in such challenging settings.
By working with innovators and health technology companies, UNICEF is driving the development and scale of a new concentrator with the following features:
Resistant to low and high temperatures (0-40ºC), high humidity (95%), high altitude (2,000 meters) and dusty environments.
Resilient to common power-related challenges.
Easy to deliver, set-up, use and maintain for supply chain and health facility management.
The plan involves conducting market research, communicating the needs via a Target Product Profile to developers, working with top manufacturers to test and improve the new devices, and introducing them to global programmes to scale the technology.
High quality innovation takes years to achieve, and given this project will take up to 5-10 years to reach full scale, UNICEF will, at the same time, continue implementing current oxygen delivery efforts. This includes advocating for incremental improvements to the current concentrators, strengthening maintenance plans, and helping governments improve oxygen systems by using the planning tool to determine which source, or mix of sources, works best for that context (i.e. oxygen plant, concentrator or cylinder).
The project goal is to make oxygen available in primary healthcare facilities that have challenges with power-supply, extreme climates and a lack of maintenance expertise on site. UNICEF aims to fill the technology gap to ensure this life saving gas can reach the 4.2 million children with severe pneumonia who require it to survive.