Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Meeting oxygen needs in Africa: an options analysis from the Gambia

Stephen RC Howie, Sarah Hill, Augustine Ebonyi, Gautam Krishnan, Ousman Njie, Momodou Sanneh, Mariatou Jallow, Warren Stevens, Kevin Taylor, Martin W Weber, Pamela Collier Njai, Mary Tapgun, Tumani Corrah, Kim Mulholland, David Peel, Malick Njie, Philip C Hill & Richard A Adegbola


To compare oxygen supply options for health facilities in the Gambia and develop a decision-making algorithm for choosing oxygen delivery systems in Africa and the rest of the developing world.


Oxygen cylinders and concentrators were compared in terms of functionality and cost. Interviews with key informants using locally developed and adapted WHO instruments, operational assessments, cost-modelling and cost measurements were undertaken to determine whether oxygen cylinders or concentrators were the better choice. An algorithm and a software tool to guide the choice of oxygen delivery system were constructed.


In the Gambia, oxygen concentrators have significant advantages compared to cylinders where power is reliable; in other settings, cylinders are preferable as long as transporting them is feasible. Cylinder costs are greatly influenced by leakage, which is common, whereas concentrator costs are affected by the cost of power far more than by capital costs. Only two of 12 facilities in the Gambia were found suitable for concentrators; at the remaining 10 facilities, cylinders were the better option.


Neither concentrators nor cylinders are well suited to every situation, but a simple options assessment can determine which is better in each setting. Nationally this would result in improved supply and lower costs by comparison with conventional cylinders alone, although ensuring a reliable supply would remain a challenge. The decision algorithm and software tool designed for the Gambia could be applied in other developing countries.