Mapping global oxygen shortages

Despite using oxygen medically for over 100 years and WHO classifying it as an essential medicine in 2017, large population groups, especially in developing countries, do not have access to adequate supplies. WHO has consistently raised alerts about the ongoing and persistent shortages in Africa, the Middle East, and other developing regions. The adverse impact of the shortage is most critically felt in neonatal care, with an estimated half a million newborns around the world dying annually from oxygen shortages.

As COVID-19 patient-care protocols have evolved, medical-grade oxygen is considered essential to treatments for critically ill patients, such as invasive ventilation and low- and high-flow oxygen therapies. In regions such as Africa and the Middle East, the surge in demand for medical oxygen to treat COVID-19 exacerbates preexisting gaps in medical-oxygen supplies, leading to substantial supply shortages. Even though these regions may have lower incremental demand for oxygen to treat COVID-19 than, say, China, their lower preexisting supplies will contribute to greater shortages.

Source: McKinsey & Co.

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