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MOH, WHO and EU partner to boost access to medicinal oxygen in Vanuatu

The Vanuatu Ministry of Health (MOH), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union (EU) have partnered to launch a new oxygen plant, greatly increasing the country's access to life-saving medicinal oxygen.

The oxygen plant has the capacity to produce over 500,000 litres of medicinal oxygen within 24 hours, able to fill a total of 74 6800-litre oxygen cylinders.

This means that in a day, approximately 25 critical COVID-19 patients can be supported with non-stop medicinal oxygen.

The oxygen plant was inaugurated in a ceremonial handover led by the Minister of Health, Rick Tchamako Mahe, Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific, Sujiro Seam, and WHO Vanuatu Country Officer-in-Charge Dr. Philippe Guyant yesterday.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of having immediate access to medicinal oxygen. Oxygen is a critical resource in the treatment of serious cases of Covid-19 and other respiratory diseases, and this is why we worked closely with WHO and the EU to ensure that every patient who needs oxygen has access to it here in Vila Central Hospital,” said Minister Mahe.

Over US$800,000 has been invested in the oxygen plant in Vanuatu, which includes the manufacturing of the oxygen plant and its transportation.

WHO is also supporting the set up and testing of the plant, the training of health workers, and provision of spare parts and oxygen cylinders.

The oxygen plant installed at Vila Central Hospital uses pressure-swing adsorption (PSA) technology, which captures the surrounding air and then processes and concentrates the air to the 93% purity acceptable for medical purposes.

The concentrated air is then filled directly into oxygen cylinders to be used to treat patients when needed.

“Medicinal oxygen is a critical component of patient care and of the overall health system.

Its availability can mean the difference between life and death for people in need, not just those sick with Covid-19 but with other respiratory illnesses,” explained Dr Eunyoung Ko, WHO Country Liaison Officer for Vanuatu.

Photo supplied Caption: Minister of Health Rick Mahe and Ambassador of the European Union for the Pacific, Sujiro Seam, during the handing over of the oxygen plant at the Vila Central Hospital.