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UNICEF, IHS Nigeria to expand access to oxygen for pneumonia, COVID-19 patients

…Kano, Oyo, Ebonyi, C’River, others to benefit

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is partnering IHS Nigeria to strengthen oxygen supply in hospitals for the treatment of pneumonia, COVID-19 and hypoxemia disorders in new-born babies and pregnant women, a statement by UNICEF’s communication specialist, Blessing Ejiofor, said on Friday.

Oxygen is a life-saving medical gas used to treat respiratory illnesses and support various healthcare provisions such as emergency obstetric care, surgery, and anaesthesia.

IHS Nigeria, a subsidiary of IHS Towers, is a company specialising in building and operating telecommunication infrastructure throughout emerging markets.

Ejiofor said the partnership was aimed at supporting the federal ministry of health in meeting demands for effective oxygen therapy in the country. According to her, IHS Nigeria has been a UNICEF partner since 2019.

Ejiofor said under the collaboration, oxygen plants would be installed in health facilities and incorporated into state-specific oxygen resilience plans, including training healthcare workers on the safe administration of oxygen. She said that the partnership covers Ogun, Oyo, Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Ebonyi, Cross Rivers and Rivers States.

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Ejiofor said that oxygen was critical to improving health outcomes and reducing mortality due to pneumonia by 35 per cent, yet, rarely available and often expensive.

She said no fewer than 120,000 children die annually due to hypoxemia in the country.

“With limited access to supplemental oxygen, the line between life and death is blurred for critically ill patients with pneumonia and severe COVID-19 symptoms.

“This situation is, unfortunately, the reality for many. At UNICEF, we value our strong partnership with IHS Nigeria.

“It is only through joint efforts and the support of trusted partners like IHS Nigeria that we can deliver robust healthcare and advance other sustainable development goals to all Nigerians,’’ the statement quoted Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Representative.

The CEO of IHS Nigeria, Mohamad Darwish, said his company was delighted to be contributing further to the provision of healthcare in the country.

“When we read about the number of deaths in Nigeria that could be avoided by making oxygen available, such projects become a must-do rather than an option.

“By working collaboratively, we believe we can help improve the health and well-being of our communities and thereby express a very small token of appreciation to our beloved country and the communities that host us.

“We also hope this partnership will encourage others in the private sector to contribute to the delivery of vital healthcare for women and children across Nigeria,” he said.