Scotland Malawi Partnership Oxygen Appeal: One year on.

12 May 2022
Alberto Gregori

Alberto Gregori FRCSEd FRCSEng DFM Orthopaedic Surgeon.

Oxygen Supply Coordination Group Chair.

In 2021 more than 300 organisations and individuals, including a former Prime Minister, a former First Minister, and HRH The Princess Royal, donated a total of £45,500 to an emergency appeal managed by the Scotland Malawi Partnership’s Oxygen Supply Coordination Group. We are delighted to share the following reflections with you from Oxygen Supply Coordination Group Chair, Alberto Gregori, FRCSEd FRCSEng DFM Orthopaedic Surgeon, having personally toured the north of Malawi to assess the impact of this work.

SMP Oxygen Appeal: One year on.

"As the world starts to return to some semblance of normality following the Covid-19 Pandemic it will interest all who generously gave to this appeal last year to know how the SMP response has fared and what effect it had. It is important to know if our efforts and your generosity have had the desired effect.

Despite the border closures introduced to stem Covid-19 we were privileged to be allowed into Malawi in July of 2021 on an invitation from the Ministry of Health with the NGO Feet First Worldwide. We used the opportunity to ensure that the donated Oxygen saturation monitors and other hardware including bullnose regulators and flow meters (the attachments that allow delivery and regulation of oxygen from Oxygen Cylinders) were distributed, as we had planned, to all District Hospital Units in the Northern Region to help respond to the Pandemic. We were able to ensure all Covid Treatment units in the Northern Region (covering a population of 5 million people) had a basic ability to measure oxygen saturation in their Covid Patients and an ability to tailor oxygen therapy to the optimum.

The SMP's support also allowed the in-country charity 'Open O2' to embark on an ambitious and effective program to repair and check hundreds of abandoned Oxygen Concentrator units throughout Malawi to effectively deliver Oxygen to the majority of patients requiring oxygen support. This allowed staff to retain cylinder oxygen (giving a higher concentration and flow) for the most unwell patients. This gave us confidence that in the first response we had achieved our goal of rapidly supporting effective Oxygen delivery to treat Covid patients throughout Malawi but in the North particularly.

Where are we now with the receding Pandemic?

We have just returned from our last Surgical camps in Malawi in early April 2022 and can provide a further update.

After a very busy month operating (600+ patients seen and 87 operations) we were relieved to see that all Covid units were pretty empty or indeed closed. The striking thing was that everywhere we went in the Northern region we had functioning oxygen concentrators and oxygen saturation monitors both in theatres and in the wards. This had never been the case prior to 2020. Many of these monitors were supplied by SMP's Oxygen Appeal. Those monitors that had been placed in the Covid wards have been redeployed to the Paediatric and medical wards and theatres. Similarly, in each hospital we went to, there were multiple functioning, checked oxygen Concentrators with bar-coded 'Open O2' test stickers showing when they were tested/repaired and how efficiently they were working with a measured % oxygen Concentration produced. 

The increased safety that this improved oxygen provision and measurement delivers to patients cannot be overestimated. This ranges from safer anaesthesia during emergency surgery such as caesarean sections, general surgery and also elective surgery such as that on our camps providing orthopaedic surgery for children. The resuscitation of new born-babies remains a challenge in all countries but again, having an ability to measure oxygen saturation and deliver oxygen to these very vulnerable tiny patients is of great value in reducing potential brain injury and debility. The same was evident in the paediatric ward where ill children with pneumonia and malaria were being treated with oxygen. Talking to the staff, they noted that things were so much better with this equipment.

In summary, whilst the SMP Oxygen Appeal had the desired effect on quickly improving the access to safe delivery of oxygen throughout Malawi for patients suffering from Covid 19, it as also had a legacy effect of improving access to Oxygen therapy for so many other patients who will continue to not only benefit from the ability to measure oxygen saturation but to also provide tailored oxygen therapy effectively.


from our patients."