Resilient Oxygen Concentrators
The development of a durable, state-of-the-art oxygen concentrator that operates in challenging environments.
Every year, over 7 million children suffering from severe pneumonia in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) urgently need oxygen to survive. This life-saving gas helps patients breathe when they cannot do so on their own – whether it is 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. In most cases, these portable devices are the best option for remote and/or low-resource areas without oxygen plants or cylinder delivery networks.
Currently, the best concentrators on the market are being distributed by UNICEF, saving thousands of lives. These devices were first developed as at-home medical solutions for places where the climate is controlled (e.g. air conditioning) and electricity is reliable. Unfortunately, some of the environments in which UNICEF works have unreliable power systems coupled with dusty, humid and hot climates. Although the equipment works well in many cases, operational challenges that still exist must be addressed.
Every 43 seconds
a child dies from pneumonia. Many of these deaths are preventable
Over 7 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, energy efficient, 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:
Up to 60% more energy efficient and solar energy friendly
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
Key consumables can be stored for a longer period, making supply chain and health facility management easier
Easy to deliver, set up, use and maintain
Following thorough market research and convening key stakeholders, UNICEF has communicated the needs and requirements via a Target Product Profile (TPP) to industry. UNICEF is working to select suppliers capable of developing and providing innovative TPP-based oxygen concentrators in low-resource settings. The initiative aims to engage with industry in a co-creation process for these innovative products. An Advance Purchase Commitment (APC) of $8+ million has also been launched to reduce demand uncertainties for manufacturers who invest in Research and Development (R&D) for the concentrators. The new concentrators are expected to be available by 2024 in the UNICEF Supply Catalogue and deployed to reach more children in need.
High-quality innovation takes years to achieve. 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 with power supply challenges, extreme climates and 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.