Remarks on the occasion of the launch of the PSA Oxygen plant in Kayunga Regional Referral Hospital

Delivered by Dr. Flavia Mpanga Kaggwa, UNICEF Health Specialist

05 May 2022
oxygen plant in Uganda, COVID-19, COVID19, breathing, oxygen scarcity, pneumonia, UKaid, FCDO
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Abdul

Access to oxygen can make the difference between life and death for patients with severe COVID-19.  Over the past two years, many of us have seen this, either within our own families or among people we know. Here in Uganda, COVID-19 turned what we call the “oxygen gap” – which is the difference between those who need oxygen and those who actually receive it – into a real crisis.  

This matters for UNICEF because oxygen is not only important for severe COVID—which mostly affects adults—but is also standard care for many small and sick newborns, and for children with severe pneumonia.  During the resurgence of COVID-19 in Uganda last year, an increase in the demand for oxygen meant that less oxygen was available for babies and children in need of care.  In fact, during the worst of the COVID waves, the demands for oxygen within many referral hospitals far exceeded the capacity of existing plants, causing breakdowns due to chronic overuse.

Fortunately, UNICEF was able to join hands with the British High Commission in Kampala to address this acute shortage.  Thanks to the generosity of the UK Government, UNICEF was able to procure a “Pressure Swing Absorption” oxygen plant for Kayunga Regional Referral Hospital.

This plant, which was installed back in February, can fill up to 140 oxygen cylinders in 24 hours, which is an enormous amount. The capacity within Kayunga is enough to sustain not only the hospital itself, but also facilities in Buikwe, Jinja, Kamuli, Luwero, Mukono, and Nakasongola, as well as nearby facilities here in Kayunga.  Work is currently underway to support a piping system to supply continuous access to oxygen for paediatric, neonatal, and maternity medical wards. The work should be finalised next month in June.

In addition to the generosity of the UK government, UNICEF was able to procure oxygen plants for 3 additional regional referral hospitals with essential support from:

  • The Cotton On Foundation and the Austrian National Committee for UNICEF, which provided funding for an oxygen plant in Masaka Regional Referral Hospital,
  • The US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, which provided funding for the plant in Soroti Regional Referral Hospital, and
  • UNICEF Uganda, which used its own programme funds to purchase a much-needed oxygen plant for Kabale Regional Referral Hospital.

UNICEF was the partner responsible for procuring all of this equipment, and we are proud to say that Ugandan families will be receiving some of the safest, most reliable oxygen equipment available. This is extremely important.  By supporting regional referral hospitals and their surrounding districts, we can reach more children in some of the least served communities across the country.

On behalf of UNICEF, I wish to thank the Ministry of Health for organizing this function, and especially the Minister herself, who was unable to be here but who has been steadfast in her leadership and commitment to mitigating the effects of COVID-19 throughout the country. 

I also wish to extend a special thank you to the director of the hospital and the excellent staff that worked tirelessly over the past two years.  This is a unique opportunity to build the systems we need to prevent future pandemics, while ensuring that every child has access to essential healthcare.

UNICEF remains committed to working closely with the Government of Uganda, FCDO and other essential development partners, health workers, and most importantly, families and communities in Uganda to ensure that current and future generations of children and parents have the oxygen they need to stay alive.

Thank you.

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