During the COVID-19 pandemic, oxygen has been a critical global commodity used to relieve patients of acute respiratory difficulties caused by the virus. Following the recent release of the USAID Implementation Plan for the U.S. COVID-19 Global Response and Recovery Framework, we sat down with Oxygen Deputy Team Lead Markos Layton to hear about his work with the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project’s Oxygen (O2) Activity.
1. Tell us about the Oxygen Activity and how it came about?
USAID issued technical direction to Chemonics to support identified countries through the provision of assistance in the O2 sector in response to COVID-19, specifically to:
- Support the coordination of in-country oxygen supply activities
- Procure oxygen-related equipment and supplies – such as Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) Plants, cylinders, and oxygen delivery consumables durables
- Provide clinical and non-clinical technical assistance to host-country counterparts related to maintenance of oxygen equipment and its use in clinical care for COVID-19 patients
It has been a challenging but incredibly rewarding activity. Through this activity, we had to learn about a new commodity sector, learn about the products we had to procure, and establish relationships with new suppliers. As part of this initiative, in June 2021 Procurement Specialist Ellen Airozo and I visited Airsep – a medical equipment and supplies manufacturing facility in Buffalo, NY – to observe factory acceptance testing, meet their team, and understand the products they manufacture more deeply. Oxygen is a drug and there are medical standards and quality standards that we needed to adhere to deliver these lifesaving commodities safely and successfully to those who need them most.
Meanwhile, we had to navigate a host of rapidly changing COVID-19 challenges, pivoting and adapting to immediately kick-off sourcing events to respond quickly to the needs in target countries under this emergency program. Given the incredible spike in demand for oxygen-related commodities globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was tremendous pressure to work efficiently at every point in the supply chain to ensure we could get products to where they were needed in a timely manner.
2. What has been a key component in the continued success of this critical venture?
As a result of the impacts of COVID-19 on the supply chain, product availability, freight lines, port congestion, container shortages, and space on shipping vessels were all adversely affected and presented challenges. We had to navigate this space with a new host of suppliers while responding to client needs, desperate to get these commodities to countries and facilities with critical O2 needs.