An initial $20 million has already been provided by the health research foundation Wellcome and the financing initiative Unitaid. The taskforce estimates that the overall funding needed to fill the gap in oxygen supplies over the next 12 months will be $1.6 billion.
“Now it’s more vital than ever that we come together to build on the work that has already been done, with a firm commitment to helping the worst-affected countries as quickly as possible,” said Dr Philippe Duneton, executive director of Unitaid.
There are also hopes that stabilising access to medical oxygen could help countries to treat other conditions, including pneumonia, in the future.
“Addressing the oxygen gap will not only help with Covid-19 treatment in countries that are losing far too many saveable lives,” said Unicef’s Ms Fore. “It will also help to improve health systems and health outcomes beyond Covid-19 in the long term, including for the many newborns and children who require oxygen to survive.”
Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children, said: “This announcement is a crucial step forward. It signals that the world is now waking up to this deadly oxygen crisis – but the clock is ticking. Without funding to back it up, the commitment means nothing. It’s critical that donors urgently step up and meet this target. Every day that passes costs more lives.”
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