News & Features — 3 July 2021 at 10:45 am

Oxygen Crisis in Zambia

The situation

During a global pandemic of a virus which severely affects our patient’s ability to respire efficiently, what would be the worst deficit to have in your health care setting? It would of course be oxygen. This is the reality in Zambia right now.

The current surge of critically unwell patients in Zambia is seeing many mortalities of people in their 30s, pregnant women and health care workers. Zambian health care resources were significantly challenged during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic. This degree of critical illness however, has not been experienced in the country up until now.

Apart from the tragedy that this wave is creating, distressed health care workers are rapidly becoming exhausted and overwhelmed. With less that 0.1% of the population vaccinated, typical for low-and-middle-income contries across the world, the current rapid spread of coronavirus is likely to continue.

Imagine working in an intensive care within a large teaching hospital, and seeing pipeline pressures of zero, realising that you are in fact delivering air to your hypoxic, critically ill patients and not having enough oxygen cylinders to support this deficit. In addition to this, without sufficient pulse oximeters how do you correctly identify those patients at greatest need of this finite resource?

The health care partnership, The Zambian Anaesthetic Development Program (ZADP), is joining forces with Medical Aid International and Intersurgical to deliver oxygen concentrators, oxygen delivery devices and pulse oximeters to anaesthetists in Zambia. ZADP has also written letters to a number of UK government ministers, asking for increased support with donation of spare vaccines, increased engagement in COVAX and a reversal of the sudden withdrawal of promised funding through UK Aid.

ZADP oxygen appeal
Take a deep breath oxygen appeal

What can you do to help?

  1. Please support ZADP and Zambia by donating here. £200 will provide one oxygen concentrator with a 10 year life span and accompanying training on use and maintenance. £240 will provide one pulse oximeter.
  2. Follow ZADP on social media and share their posts. (Twitter: @globalanaes)
  3. Spread the word with your friends, family and colleagues.

Featured photograph by Dr David Hall, with permission.