Stephen Howie, a doctor and researcher at MRC Unit, The Gambia, recently received a grant from the MRC Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme to develop and test a low-maintenance oxygen supply system for children with pneumonia and other diseases. Here he explains why traditional oxygen cylinders don’t fare well in developing countries, and what he plans to do about it.
I joined the MRC’s unit in The Gambia in 2003, a fresh-faced paediatrician from New Zealand, excited to be in a place where need and expertise meet to save children’s lives. Ten years later I’m still excited about this place for that very reason.
One day, early on, I was seeing children at the government hospital in the capital, Banjul. The staff there told me about the struggle they had to make sure that oxygen was available to children with severe pneumonia and other serious illnesses. Pneumonia is the number one cause of death in children worldwide, and it affects those in developing countries far, far more often than in other countries. Severe pneumonia stops the lungs doing their job of getting vital oxygen to the body properly, and giving oxygen can save lives. The staff at the hospital were just managing, but efforts to try to improve their system for oxygen delivery had not quite worked. Read more