“We did not have hope that he would survive.”

“You can see from his photo that the child was very critical at the time the picture was taken,” says Dr. Namrata Makwana, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics while showing pictures of UNICEF Australia staff on a mobile phone.

During the second wave of COVID-19 in India last year, hospitals and health centers were overwhelmed by the number of new cases. In response, UNICEF worked closely with the government to respond and vaccinate against COVID-19.

While children largely escaped the worst of COVID-19, a few weeks later suffered rare complications.

In May 2021, Munaf was unwell so his family rushed him to their local hospital in Jamnagar, Gujarat. He has been diagnosed with Multiple System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), which can be fatal.

MIS-C is a disease in which various parts of the body can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. In children, MIS-C can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, and vomiting.

It’s not known what causes the condition, but many children with MIS-C have had COVID-19 or been around someone with the condition.

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Munaf’s father had COVID-19 a month and a half before Munaf became ill.

Munaf visits a hospital in Jamnagar with his mother and father for a check-up
Munaf visits a hospital in Jamnagar with his mother and father for a check-up. The 11-year-old has recovered from COVID-related complications thanks to an oxygen generating facility provided by UNICEF India in May 2021.

At the hospital, Munaf was immediately medicated and put on a ventilator to help him breathe. He was then fitted with a UNICEF-supplied high-flow nasal cannula that used at least six liters of oxygen per day.

Thanks to the UNICEF-supported oxygen generation facility, staff were able to quickly treat Munaf with oxygen. Today, more than a year later, Munaf visited the hospital for an examination. He is happy, healthy and happy to go back to school.

“[Munaf] recovered after a long period of almost 14 to 20 days and is now perfectly fine,” says Dr. Makwana who has been working at the hospital for 10 years.

“But we had no hope at the time that the child would survive.”

This oxygen generation plant was one of the first to be installed in India at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. These systems meet a wide range of needs in a hospital, including operating theatres, intensive care units and neonatal wards.

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There is a constant high demand for oxygen in hospitals, which contributes to the enormous costs of running a hospital.

An oxygen generation plant produces medical oxygen on site, which reduces the procurement of oxygen cylinders and thus the costs.

People looking at oxygen cylinders
UNICEF Gujarat and UNICEF Australia teams visit the oxygen generation facility at a government hospital in Jamnagar, India.

In response to the pandemic, UNICEF India installed oxygen generation systems in government hospitals across India.

Each facility can provide oxygen to a 500-bed hospital for more than two decades. Oxygen therapy has been a crucial part of UNICEF’s response to COVID-19 and is considered the most effective treatment.

dr Makwana says the first registered pediatric patient in Gujarat was from Jamnagar. Since the pandemic began, they’ve seen 135 COVID-19 positive patients in their pediatric ward – all requiring oxygen.

“I still remember when the first COVID patient came here in Jamnagar,” says Dr. Makwana. “We used to wear a full PPE kit with a mask… it was so hot and muggy and we had to work almost 24/7.”

“At the time we were in dire need of oxygen and other facilities. We received help from UNICEF in the form of an oxygen generator and a high-flow nasal cannula. That was a big help back then.”

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UNICEF India also procured life-saving supplies such as oxygen concentrators, RT-PCR testing equipment, personal protective equipment and more.

doctor and baby
left, dr Makwana works in the children’s ward of the hospital. ©UNICEF/UN0687844/Panjwani. That’s right, Jaydev, three months old, is receiving oxygen support during treatment. He receives oxygen through a high-flow nasal cannula.

Even today, these systems for generating oxygen save lives. The oxygen is now helping newborns and children recover from various illnesses, such as little Rekha (pictured below), who suffers from a genetic blood disease and has to be hospitalized frequently.

Thanks to the support of our generous donors, together we have made a lasting impact and further strengthened the health system for children and families.

Baby in hospital bed with father looking over her.
Rekha, six, is receiving oxygen support and treatment for thalassemia and splenomegaly. Thanks to the support of UNICEF India during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2021, tap oxygen is now available at the beds in the children’s wards via a generation plant.

Thanks to the generous support of our donors, UNICEF teams have been able to bring life-saving supplies to India during last year’s outbreak, including:

  • oxygen concentrators
  • High flow nasal cannulas
  • RTPCR machines for COVID testing
  • cold chain equipment
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Oxygen production plants

When you donate to UNICEF in an emergency, you not only help get life-saving supplies out as quickly as possible, you also make a lasting impression on children. Many Thanks.

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