In a bid to scale up availability of medical oxygen in Nigeria and better preserve COVID-19 vaccines, the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) on Tuesday launched a 2.3 million dollar project in Borno.
The project, which is funded by the government of Japan, implemented by UNOPS and supported by the North East Development Commission (NEDC) was officially launched on Tuesday by Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno.
At the event. which held physically in Abuja and virtually, Gov. Zulum commended the Japanese government for the support to Borno and the North East.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the project, which has a delivery period of 12 months will directly benefit nine hospitals and 139 Primary Health Centres in Borno.
Giving insights into the project, the UNOPS office in Nigeria in a presentation, pointed out that the goal of the project was to strengthen healthcare provision and meet acceptable standards of medical care.
It said that the project aligned strongly with Japan's diplomatic policies in Nigeria as well as the National Strategy for the scale-up of Medical Oxygen in health facilities (2017 to 2022) and contribute to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to the presentation, under the project, two medical oxygen plants will be constructed, one each in the State Specialist Hospital Maiduguri and the Biu General Hospital.
Also, 23 Primary healthcare centres will be equipped with Solar Direct Drive Vaccine Refrigerators
The Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria Shinozawa Takayuki, who joined virtually declared the commitment of the Japanese government to the project.
In his remark, the United Nations Resident Commission, Edward Kaloon said that the plants were indeed necessary in view of the high demands for oxygen occasioned by COVID-19.
He said that COVID-19 and other respiratory related illnesses exposed systemic weakness in global health systems as health facilities were confronted with high risk of not having adequate supply of oxygen.
"Statistics show that every year 4.2 million children suffer from severe pneumonia in lower and mid income countries including Nigeria.
"Therefore, this investment is timely and highly needed, especially in Borno and other parts of North East.
"The two oxygen plants which will be construction by UNOPS will complement all other interventions to greatly improve COVID-19 severe case management system, build resilience of the health system and improve emergency health delivery in the state.
"Thus Borno state will be better equipped to treat children with respiratory illnesses and respond to COVID-19," he said.
He therefor said that the project would support the implementation of the National policy of Medical Oxygen and would contribute to saving the lives of patients in Nigeria including lives of up to 120,000 under-five children annually.
While calling for the protection of all who would be working on the project, Kaloon thanked the government of Japan for the support which they have given.
The UNOPS Director in Nigeria Ifeoma Charles-Monwuba, stressed that oxygen was a life-saving medical gas which "is used for the treating illnesses and meeting other health system needs".
She said that the project was timely as demand for oxygen was on the increase: "There is an increasing demand for medical oxygen, therefore this project will scale up oxygen storage and expand vaccine storage capacity of health centres."
"In UNOPS, we believe that we are well-positioned to drive an extensive oxygen response and increasing the capacity of health facilities to meet the desperate need of oxygen therapy.
"We will continue to work with key stakeholders in the implementation of this project and we look for additional engagement with state regulatory bodies," she said.
NAN reports that the project however does not cover distribution infrastructure to transport oxygen to other healthcare facilities and biomedical equipment such as cylinders, masks.
The project also does not cover distribution and installation of the solar refrigerators to the beneficiary healthcare facilities.
Vanguard News Nigeria