War in Ukraine: UNITAID's fight to provide medical oxygen to premature babies

While an increase in the number of “premature births is reported in Ukraine”, a world health agency is trying to guarantee the supply of medicinal oxygen, a vital device for infants, but also for all patients suffering from various pathologies.

In partnership with Vayu Global Health, an organization that develops low-cost innovations, the International Solidarity Organization (Unitaid) has provided 220 of its bubble-based continuous positive airway pressure (bCPAP) devices and 125 of its bubble-blending systems. oxygen to provide infants with the respiratory support and oxygen therapy they need.

This common mode of treatment is best suited for respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in preterm infants and other childhood respiratory diseases.

Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, many hospitals have been damaged or destroyed and supply chains have been broken. This puts thousands of newborn babies at high risk of death or disability due to a lack of access to oxygen, necessary equipment and essential treatments.

Moreover, as the war increases the stress on mothers, health and humanitarian agencies report an increased number of premature births. The latter are thus more likely to develop respiratory, neurological or digestive complications in babies, which further increases the need for oxygen.

25 centers including 17 perinatal in Ukraine equipped

As a non-invasive ventilation strategy for neonates with Infantile Respiratory Distress Syndrome (IRDS), bCPAP is a continuous flow variable pressure system for spontaneously breathing neonates to prevent lung collapse during expiration.

The new ultra-economical, portable and electricity-free bCPAP device, which had the authorization of the American authorities during the Covid-19 pandemic, makes it possible to precisely administer the concentration, flow and pressure of oxygen, which can significantly improve the condition of newborns and infants.

Unitaid funding enabled the engineering, manufacturing and approval of this device to be completed. The system is made in Kenya.

Unitaid also funded this specific support for Ukraine. To date, 25 referral centers across Ukraine, including 17 perinatal centers, have received these life-saving devices. Initial intensive in-person trainings were held in Krakow, Poland to support Ukrainian neonatologists and pediatricians from Lviv.

“bCPAP has enormous potential and can be a game changer when it comes to oxygen delivery to babies around the world, but especially in crisis and resource-limited situations,” said Hervé Verhoosel, spokesperson for Unitaid.

An appeal was launched in this sense on August 9 by the organization.

The Geneva-based organization is also calling on donors and the private sector to increase investment in health innovations suitable for “use in crisis and resource-limited contexts”.

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