Published By: BHI Communications

BHI Assessment Finds Potential to Increase Medical Oxygen Capacity by 25% Per Day In Malawi

Contact: Olivia Duggan,


New, comprehensive report examining non-commercial oxygen plants in Malawi finds less than 50% of facilities are fully functioning, offers solutions to improve oxygen supply and delivery

Beverly, MA — August 5, 2021 — Today, Build Health International (BHI), a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that supports the design, construction, and maintenance of high-quality health infrastructure around the world, announced the results of a first-of-its-kind assessment of medical oxygen production in Malawi.

With support from the DAK Foundation, the assessment focused on all non-commercial Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) oxygen generation plants in Malawi. These plants, and the oxygen they produce, are a key tool in the fight against COVID-19, when supplemental oxygen is often the primary treatment for infected patients.

The assessment results revealed that of the seven PSA plants evaluated throughout the country, only three were operating at a fully functional level. Of the remaining plants, one was in need of repairs and three were nonfunctional. The study also found that, if all four of the sub-fully functional plants were repaired, high-flow oxygen capacity in Malawi could be expected to increase by just over 600 cubic meters per day, in a fraction of the time it would take to install new plants — an increase of 25% over current capabilities at 80% less than the cost of new oxygen investments — which would have a major impact on the country’s capacity to treat patients suffering from COVID-19, as well as a range of other conditions.

“Around the world, health systems are struggling to deal with subsequent waves of COVID-19 infections, often because medical oxygen is in short supply,” said Jim Ansara, Co-Founder and Managing Director of BHI. “The international community has a responsibility to work in partnership with public health officials and local communities to find actionable, sustainable ways to aid in the response to COVID-19, and ensuring that existing oxygen infrastructure is functioning at full capacity is a critical part of the effort. This study provides a clear, comprehensive perspective on the state of existing oxygen infrastructure at a national level, and the information is invaluable to ongoing efforts to repair existing infrastructure and expand oxygen capacity.”

Steve Mtewa, a native of Malawi and BHI’s Facilities Biomedical Engineer, said “When we were at the hospitals we were not only looking at the oxygen plants. We were also looking at the electricity — do they have a standby generator, do they have an automatic change over switch, how often do they have black-outs and things like that. And apart from oxygen we were also looking at the conditions of their generators. Many of the generators were not in good shape.”

The full results of BHI’s assessment in Malawi can be found here. Following the release of these results, BHI remains engaged with officials and healthcare providers in Malawi to address identified repair needs, and is working to complete similar assessments in other countries throughout Africa.

About Build Health International:

Build Health International (BHI) believes that every person has a right to quality healthcare. That’s why BHI builds and equips dignified spaces for care in the world’s most vulnerable communities, enabling local clinicians to work at their full potential. Working closely with Ministries of Health, partner organizations, and local workforces, BHI promotes sustainable design, and empowers communities, and enables access to dignified and affordable healthcare in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.