As Malawi suffers its second Covid wave, far worse than its first, there is a critical shortage of oxygen to treat those in hospital. The Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP) has established an urgent, time-limited appeal through which people can donate to support oxygen supply in Malawi.
We encourage all those who can, to donate to this appeal and help share across social media.
Decision-making as to how best to offer urgent support for Malawi in this area has come from the expert-led Scotland-Malawi Oxygen Supply Coordination Group, chaired by Mr Alberto Gregori MB ChB Glasgow, FRCS Ed, FRCS Eng, FRCS Ed (Orth), DFM Glasgow, a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon.
Members of the Oxygen Coordination Group come from many key organisations across Malawi and Scotland, including: Mulanje Mission Hospital, Covid Response Private Citizens Appeal, the College of Medicine, Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), the University of Edinburgh, Malawi Human Rights Commission, Medic Malawi, Malawi-UK Business Group, University of Glasgow, World Orthopaedic Concern, Chifundo UK, Kondanani UK, EMMS International, MaSP and the SMP.
This appeal will close at midnight, Sunday 28th February.
In the first instance, funds will be used to support emergency assistance to help repair the numerous broken Oxygen Concentrators currently onsite in Malawian Hospitals. This will be delivered by a Malawian organisation, “Open O2” which has already started work on this project, commencing in Lilongwe’s Kamuzu Central Hospital, with Malawian engineers donating their time pro bono. Currently over 350 Oxygen Concentrators needing repair have been identified and experience so far has shown a relatively easy repair is possible for about half of these. Others will require spares that are already en route to Malawi. “Open O2” has repurposed a minibus and is using this as a mobile workshop, travelling the country to rehabilitate oxygen concentrators. Each planned hospital trip costs about US$600 and is likely to result in the repair of some 30 oxygen concentrators (for comparison, 30 new concentrators would cost around US$30,000, and take 4-6 weeks to arrive).
If donations allow, further funds will be used to supply Oxygen Saturation Monitors across Malawi. An essential part of the diagnosis and treatment of Covid-19 involves the ability to measure the amount of Oxygen in a patient’s blood. This assessment, using a simple ‘oxygen saturation monitor’, allows determination of the amount of Oxygen required to effectively treat the patient and monitor ongoing therapy. The same monitors are required as part of the normal safety monitoring of patients during surgery, childbirth and treatment of critical illness -they are in very short supply throughout Malawi. A medical grade Oxygen saturation monitor and probes costs £250 and lasts years. We have identified 250 units which are currently available in the UK for immediate delivery by airfreight. All packaging material around the units would be replaced with oxygen tubing and other cheap, soft essential medical supplies, to ensure no space is wasted in the airfreight.
The Open O2 team, in Zomba.
The current crisis caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic has challenged all of us throughout the world. The second wave in Southern Africa has been much more brutal than the first wave, including in Malawi, and has highlighted the lack of basic healthcare resources in one of the poorest countries in the world. Many agencies have rallied to the aid of the Malawian people, including many SMP members.
At the SMP’s 25th January Covid Coordination meeting, which brought together 250 key stakeholders across both nations, including Parliamentarians from three parliaments and Ministers from two governments, the Malawian Minister of Health outlined the urgent need for oxygen for the treatment of Covid-19 in Malawi. This message was reinforced by other speakers, including Dr Matthews Mtumbuka, former Chair of our sister network in Malawi, who powerfully described how he only survived his own recent Covid infection thanks to friends and family driving around Lilongwe desperately searching for oxygen for him, after supplies in the hospital he was in ran out.
The SMP quickly established an Scotland-Malawi Oxygen Supply Coordination Group made up of clinical experts, chaired by Mr Alberto Gregori MB ChB Glasgow, FRCS Ed, FRCS Eng, FRCS Ed (Orth), DFM Glasgow, a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon. The Group met on the 2nd February and Mr Gregori has since been working all hours to connect all the stakeholders and experts in this space, across Malawi and Scotland, to best understand where there is greatest need and where Scotland could potentially help. The Group has been working in partnership with the Malawian Ministry of Health and Malawi’s own Health Cluster and Oxygen Taskforce.
The initial support for Malawi’s Covid response has been to help provide everything from PPE to Oxygen cylinders to essential drugs. The increased worldwide demand for PPE and Oxygen supply materials means that there will be a delay of some 4-6 weeks for any orders made today. Many excellent initiatives have purchased cylinders and concentrators for Malawi but most of these will not arrive in Malawi until mid/late March. The data shows that the peak demand for medical care in this pandemic second wave is now, and hence our priority is what support can most usefully be offered in the coming weeks.
The support for ‘Open O2’s work fixing broken oxygen concentrators, and the urgent supply of quality oxygen saturation monitors, were identified after significant consultation by the Oxygen Coordination Group (read their full findings HERE). The Group sees these as being key priorities that can be addressed quickly and effectively, whilst also providing a legacy effect for better healthcare in the future for Malawi.
Given there is no direct route to support these two initiatives from the UK, the Scotland Malawi Partnership, a registered Scottish Charity (SC037048) and Company Limited by Guarantee (SC294378), is happy to collect donations and make the purchases/payments. This is in response to a strong call to action from our partners and members, and informed by the priorities outlined by Malawi’s Minister of Health.
We are also in contact with the Scottish Government, the UK Government and other prospective donors, inviting them to support this urgent appeal.
Given this is an emergency appeal, we are setting a closing date of midnight Sunday 28th February, at which point funds will be fully committed to the above two causes, with full financial details published on the SMP website.
All purchases and decision-making will be led by the Oxygen Supply Coordination Group, overseen by the SMP and its Audit and Finance Committee. The SMP will be fully accountable for the onwards transfer of all funds and assets donated and will then hand over responsibility to ‘Open O2’ and the Ministry of Health respectively.