Providing oxygen to children and newborns: a multi-faceted technical and clinical assessment of oxygen access and oxygen use in secondary-level hospitals in southwest Nigeria

Int Health. 2020 Jan 1;12(1):60-68. doi: 10.1093/inthealth/ihz009.


Background: Oxygen is an essential medical therapy that is poorly available globally. We evaluated the quality of oxygen therapy in 12 secondary-level Nigerian hospitals, including access to oxygen equipment, equipment functionality, healthcare worker knowledge and appropriateness of use.

Methods: We conducted a three-part evaluation of oxygen access and use involving: (1) facility assessment (including technical evaluation of oxygen equipment), (2) clinical audit (children and neonates admitted January 2014-December 2015) and (3) survey of healthcare worker training and experience on the clinical use of oxygen (November 2015).

Results: Oxygen access for children and newborns is compromised by faulty equipment, lack of pulse oximetry and inadequate care practices. One hospital used pulse oximetry for paediatric care. Eleven hospitals had some access to oxygen supplies. Testing of 57 oxygen concentrators revealed two (3.5%) that were 'fit for use'. Overall, 14.4% (3708/25 677) of children and neonates received oxygen some time during their admission; 19.4% (1944/10 000) of hypoxaemic children received oxygen; 38.5% (1217/3161) of children who received oxygen therapy were not hypoxaemic.

Conclusions: Oxygen access for children in Nigerian hospitals is poor, and likely results in substantial excess mortality. To improve oxygen access for children globally we must focus on actual provision of oxygen to patients-not simply the presence of oxygen equipment at the facility level. This requires a systematic approach to improve both oxygen (access [including equipment, maintenance and affordability]) and oxygen use (including pulse oximetry, guidelines and continuing education).

Keywords: children; concentrators; hypoxaemia; newborns; oxygen therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / therapy*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Nigeria
  • Oximetry
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage*
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / statistics & numerical data*


  • Oxygen