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How two charities hope to provide sick kids with life-saving oxygen

It was 2008 and Dr. Hamish Graham was volunteering for Docs With out Borders within the Darfur area of Sudan to provide well being take care of about 30,000 folks displaced by the nation’s bloody civil conflict.

A 2-year-old lady arrived with a extreme case of pneumonia — barely acutely aware, respiration laborious and quick, and clearly in determined want of oxygen.

However the clinic the place Graham was stationed, within the small city of Nertiti, surrounded by the Jebel Marra volcanic mountains, was too distant to be equipped with tanks of the life-sustaining gasoline and there was just one small, moveable oxygen concentrator readily available.

The lady was handled with oxygen and antibiotics however she saved getting sicker over the following a number of days, recalled Graham, who on the time was simply three years out of medical college at Australia’s Monash College in Melbourne.

In the meantime, different kids arrived who additionally wanted oxygen and a deadly determination had to be made.

“Sadly, deaths weren’t unusual, and the calls for from newly admitted sufferers had been at all times precedence,” Graham mentioned.

The tragic incident — and others prefer it — had a profound impact on Graham, now 39 and a pediatrician and analysis fellow at Melbourne’s acclaimed Murdoch Youngsters’s Analysis Institute.

The nonprofit institute was co-founded by the late Dame Elisabeth Murdoch,  the philanthropic mom of Rupert Murdoch, the founder and govt chairman of Information Corp and chairman of The Publish.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, mother of Rupert Murdoch
The nonprofit institute was co-founded by the late Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.
Chris Jackson/Getty Pictures

“My experiences in Darfur had been the primary time I used to be confronted with the shortcoming to provide primary well being providers to sick sufferers, and the primary time I actually felt what tens of millions of well being care employees really feel every single day – frustration, unfairness and sometimes demotivation,” Graham mentioned.

Quick ahead to 2014 and Graham was engaged on an MCRI mission, backed by practically $6 million from the Invoice & Melinda Gates Basis, to enhance the supply of medical oxygen at 12 hospitals in Nigeria and 38 in Papua New Guinea.

The funding paid for round 150 oxygen concentrators, which use minerals often known as zeolites to take away nitrogen from the air by means of a course of often known as adsorption.

The cash additionally purchased about the identical variety of pulse oximeters, hand-held gadgets that measure the quantity of oxygen in a affected person’s blood by passing a beam of sunshine by means of a fingertip or different extremity, in addition to solar-power mills to run all of the high-tech gear.

Across the similar time, Jason Houdek was working as a senior technical adviser for the Clinton Basis’s Clinton Well being Entry Initiative and was additionally targeted on growing entry to medical oxygen in Africa.

Certainly one of his defining moments got here in 2015, when he walked right into a pediatric ward in a hospital in Kano, Nigeria.

“Within the ward, a handful of oxygen cylinders and damaged oxygen concentrators had been scattered amid mattress after mattress of sick kids struggling to breathe,” he mentioned.

“After which the mathematics slowly dawns on you: there’s one cylinder for each ten kids when actually it must be one thing like one for each three or 4, simply judging by what number of have clear problem respiration.”

Jason Houdek of the Clinton Foundation's Clinton Health Access Initiative.
Jason Houdek was targeted on growing entry to medical oxygen in Africa.
MacArthur Basis

CHAI’s efforts helped the federal government of Kajiado County, Kenya, centralize oxygen buying for about 100 well being care facilities within the more and more city area south of the capital Nairobi.

By negotiating a long-term deal with BOC Gasoline, a serious producer, the per-unit worth dropped about 70 % and dozens of amenities immediately had a dependable supply of medical oxygen, Houdek mentioned.

Now, Graham and Houdek hope to scale up their earlier work to dramatically develop the supply of oxygen for the therapy of sick kids in Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and India.

Graham and Houdek are the MCRI’s medical lead and CHAI’s program supervisor, respectively, on a joint utility for a $100 million grant from the charitable MacArthur Basis, famed for its annual “genius grants.”

Their proposal is one in every of six finalists within the basis’s second “100&Change” competitors, which generated greater than 750 functions to fund a single program that gives the promise of “actual and measurable progress in fixing a vital drawback of our time.”

The primary contest was received in 2017 by Sesame Workshop and the Worldwide Rescue Committee, primarily based on their plan to educate and alleviate the “poisonous stress” inflicted on kids displaced all through the Center East by the decade-long Syrian civil conflict.

The present competitors started in February 2019 and was narrowed to the highest 100 proposals a yr later.

John Palfrey of the MacArthur Foundation
The MacArthur Basis board is led by basis president John Palfrey.
MacArthur Basis

It’s anticipated to conclude with the announcement of a winner in early April.

The opposite finalists embody the Nationwide Geographic Society’s “Pristine Seas” program; a plan by Report for America to put 2,500 native reporters in additional than 750 US newsrooms; and the World Mosquito Mission’s proposal to use a naturally occurring micro organism to scale back the unfold of dengue, Zika and different viruses by killing the bugs that transmit them.

Though the MacArthur Basis relied on practically 300 outdoors consultants to consider and rank the preliminary proposals, the finalists had been chosen by its 11-member board, which can even choose the winner.

It’s led by basis president John Palfrey, former head of faculty on the prestigious Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts, and consists of Harvard Legislation Faculty professor and former dean Martha Minow, enterprise capital investor Paul Klingenstein and James Manyika, a senior companion on the McKinsey & Co. consulting agency and chairman of the McKinsey World Institute.

The historical past of medical oxygen dates to 1771, when a German-Swedish pharmaceutical chemist, Carl Wilhelm Scheele, heated mercuric acid, silver carbonate, magnesium nitrate and different nitrate salts to produce what he initially referred to as “fireplace air” due to its excessive flammability.

Cylinders to retailer oxygen to be used throughout basic anesthesia had been developed in 1868 and the demonstrated capacity of the gasoline to save lives was first recorded on March 6, 1885, at Pennsylvania’s York Hospital, the place Dr. George Holtzapple used it to efficiently deal with a 16-year-old pneumonia affected person, Frederick Gable.

Low blood oxygen, referred to as “hypoxemia,” is a life-threatening ailment that’s additionally attributable to untimely start, sepsis, malaria and different situations.

It impacts about eight million folks yearly, about 90 % of whom go undiagnosed, and will increase the chance of loss of life by 700 %, main to an estimated 900,000 fatalities yearly, in accordance to the MCRI and CHAI.

In severely affected international locations, one in six kids below age 5 who’re admitted to hospitals suffers from hypoxemia, in accordance to research by the MCRI and CHAI, which additionally present that 90 % of hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa don’t use pulse oximetry to measure oxygen ranges and fewer than half of all pediatric wards even have entry to oxygen.

“In locations like Chicago, New York, or Melbourne, oxygen is obtainable for whoever wants it as a result of so far as the well being employee is anxious, they only flip a dial and the oxygen comes out of the wall,” Houdek mentioned.

However even within the US and different extremely developed international locations, taking the supply of medical oxygen without any consideration pale amid the coronavirus pandemic and the massive demand created by waves of sick sufferers who wanted it to survive.

Throughout a March 11 panel dialogue hosted by former President Invoice Clinton, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the Nationwide Institute of Allergy and Infectious Ailments, admitted he was “probably not ever absolutely conscious of the significance and the vital nature of a scarcity of oxygen” till the virus struck.


Low blood oxygen, referred to as “hypoxemia,” is a life-threatening ailment that is additionally attributable to untimely start, sepsis, malaria and different situations.

Oxygen for Life Initiative


Low blood oxygen, referred to as “hypoxemia,” is a life-threatening ailment that is additionally attributable to untimely start, sepsis, malaria and different situations.



Low blood oxygen, referred to as “hypoxemia,” is a life-threatening ailment that is additionally attributable to untimely start, sepsis, malaria and different situations.


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“Proper right here in the USA, the medical oxygen shortages due to surges in hospitalizations that I first seen within the spring of 2020 in New York Metropolis, New Jersey and Connecticut, then in Texas within the fall of 2020 after which in California within the Navajo Nation this previous fall and present winter … impressed upon me how terribly vital this asset is,” he mentioned.

Clinton referred to as the uneven distribution of medical oxygen “fairly a well being fairness disaster.”
“When you stay in a rich nation, having too little oxygen in your blood is an issue medical doctors have the instruments and coaching to deal with,” he mentioned.

“In different components of the world, it might probably nonetheless be a loss of life sentence.”

Information from research in Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and Laos recommend that bettering hospital oxygen techniques can lower pneumonia deaths amongst kids in half, Graham mentioned.

A price-effectiveness examine involving the 38 hospitals in Papua New Guinea additionally put the value tag of stopping every pediatric loss of life at $6,435, he mentioned.

However the MCRI/CHAI proposal breaks with the normal method of most nongovernmental organizations and charities, which generally provide tools and provides, alongside with the coaching to use them, Houdek mentioned.

“This work is concentrated on constructing lasting techniques to reliably meet affected person wants within the international locations the place we work and we’re targeted on a complete method to bettering entry to medical oxygen,” he mentioned.

A part of the plan includes working with governments and well being care networks to consolidate buying and “negotiate discounted pricing and value-added, after-sales providers from private-sector suppliers,” Houdek mentioned.

“So, moderately than, for instance, buying $100 million value of kit that may final just a few years and donating it to a pair hundred well being amenities, we are able to use that very same $100 million to mobilize public- and private-sector investments, scale back the price of items and providers, and create lasting partnerships that may serve hundreds of well being amenities in perpetuity,” he mentioned.

Further reporting by Gabrielle Fonrouge

About the author

Donna Miller

Donna Miller

Donna is one of the oldest contributors of Gruntstuff and she has a unique perspective with regards to Science which makes her write news from the Science field. She aims to empower the readers with the delivery of apt factual analysis of various news pieces from Science. Donna has 3.5 years of experience in news-based content creation, and she is now an expert at it. She loves journalism, and that is the reason, she moved from a web content writer to a News writer, and she is loving it. She is a fun-loving woman who has very good connections with every team member. She makes the working environment cheerful which improves the team’s work productivity.

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