18 April 2023
NAIROBI – Kenyan President William Ruto inaugurated the procurement and distribution of US$41.7 million worth of oxygen products throughout the country this week, with funding from the Global Fund COVID-19 Response Mechanism (C19RM) in partnership with the government of Kenya and Amref Health Africa, a global health NGO headquartered in Nairobi.
More than 20,000 medical oxygen cylinders will be distributed among thousands of grassroots health facilities in the 47 counties of Kenya, including 320 primary healthcare facilities, along with 22 oxygen-producing plants and the supply and insulation of 14 bulk-storage tanks for hospitals.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the world took access to oxygen for granted – however, headlines reporting shortages, and their tragic consequences, have changed this. Oxygen became an essential treatment for severe COVID-19. In addition to COVID-19 patients, there is a vast patient population who also need oxygen therapy. This includes newborns in respiratory distress, children with pneumonia, sepsis, and/or congenital heart disease, adults with tuberculosis (TB), severe malaria, AIDS, and respiratory conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and patients requiring surgery.
To launch this much-needed boost to health in Kenya, President Ruto hosted, among others, Governor Anne Waiguru, the Chairperson of the Council of Governors; Linden Morrison, one of the Global Fund’s Department Heads for Africa; Amref Health Africa Group Chief Executive Officer Dr. Githinji Gitahi, and more than 20 county governors, at the State House in Nairobi.
“The Global Fund came to Kenya's aid and supported us in coping with the overwhelming systemic burden of the pandemic with significant financial support,” said President Ruto. “More significantly, the Global Fund stands with us even now in the pandemic recovery phase as we take robust measures to remedy the systemic weaknesses exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we are here to witness the crowning moment of a highly successful partnership that has seen us through the hardest of times and strengthened us for the future.”
Governor Waiguru said, “This launch goes a long way in increasing our capacity in health systems across all the 47 counties. I would like to thank Amref for building a robust supply chain system that has been used to deliver the oxygen ecosystem by the Global Fund. A robust oxygen ecosystem is paramount to not only improving healthcare in Kenya, but also cushioning the country against catastrophic incidences when public health threats strike.”
The initiative, designed to invest in long-term oxygen infrastructure, will strengthen health systems and bring the country closer to universal health coverage by making the counties – which include some remote communities – more self-sufficient in this vital health product. The project will also maximize the use of oxygen through innovative ways of dispensing. For instance, by attaching multiple cylinders to supply a hospital through a piping system, this saves oxygen and allows for more patients to be treated on a smaller budget.
“This project is part of a US$41.7 million project through the support of a Global Fund special mechanism,” said Dr. Githinji. “I would like to proudly call this project Hewa Mashinani (“Oxygen for the Grassroots” in Swahili). This marks a major milestone. Our universal health coverage journey is on plan.”
C19RM is a US$5 billion mechanism that the Global Fund initially set up during the emergency phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, allowing countries to procure personal protective equipment, diagnostics and therapeutics, including US$593 million for oxygen. C19RM has since been optimized and extended, bringing new funds and judicious reinvestments in long-term programs to strengthen the health systems of Global Fund partner countries. Kenya is a key partner in the investment of C19RM funds toward building a resilient and sustainable health system.
Linden Morrison said, “Through the C19RM emergency fund, Kenya is strengthening the medical oxygen ecosystem. These investments in oxygen infrastructure will save many lives across Kenya by providing an essential health service to populations requiring respiratory and intensive care, and play an important role in preparing for future pandemics.”