Updates During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Lifebox works to improve the safety of surgery and anesthesia in low and middle-income countries. Our partner healthcare workers are now on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.

Lifebox has rapidly re-focused our tools and training materials to help support our global network during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Update July 27, 2020

Lifebox focuses on safety for surgical and anesthesia patients and providers. Our priority since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to adapt and develop tools and strategies to support our colleagues as they provide safe surgical and COVID-19 care during this global health emergency.


Lifebox oximeter being used for COVID response at the National Hospital of Chimaltenango, Guatemala

Pulse Oximetry: Pulse oximeters are a crucial tool in the detection and triage of COVID-19 patients. We secured the supply of over 6,500 Lifebox pulse oximeters for partners working in high-risk COVID-19 regions – particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

Pulse Oximeter COVID-19 Decision Making Tool: Developed with ALIMA and available in six languages with a training video, this tool helps providers use a pulse oximeter to rapidly identify patients in need of oxygen therapy, and aid decision-making regarding patient placement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Surgical Patient Checklist: The COVID-19 Checklist provides prompts for key infection prevention strategies when a surgical procedure is required for a COVID-positive or suspected patient. It was developed by surgeons and anesthesiologists with input from surgical teams across seven different African nations.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Surging caseloads and disrupted supply chains has meant PPE shortages are putting the lives of providers at-risk across the globe. Lifebox has provided PPE to partners in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, and Uganda and funded the purchase of local supplies in Honduras.


Alongside evaluating and recommending a list of COVID-19-related resources, Lifebox’s medical team has developed guidance on the following:

COVID-19 Preparedness: Published in the Annals of Surgery, “COVID-19 preparedness within the surgical, obstetric and anesthetic ecosystem in Sub Saharan Africa” was developed with Lifebox partners across West, East, and Southern Africa and is helping guide surgical systems preparing for COVID-19. Virtual Grand Rounds relating to this were hosted in English, French and Spanish.

PPE Best Practice: Safely preserving and reusing PPE extends the life of materials in short supply. Lifebox developed a video on PPE best practice on the ‘Donning, Doffing and Reprocessing of PPE’ in resource-constrained settings.

Available in English, French, Spanish and Hindi. We have also created a dedicated web page providing practical instruction and guidance on evidence-based practice.

WEBINARS: Lifebox has hosted a series of webinars with clinical leaders in surgery, obstetrics and anesthesia to provide perspectives and guidance from frontline providers. More than 2,000 providers have participated with views continuing on Youtube after the events. Topics have included COVID-19 preparedness and response, oximetry and oxygen therapy and PPE best practice.

INNOVATION: Lifebox is also supporting innovations to improve patient safety during the pandemic. This has included working with Ethiopia COVID-19 Response Team (ECRT) – a team of volunteers repairing essential hospital equipment – and work with the N95DECON consortium on a project piloting the use of UVC to decontaminate N95 masks. Read more here.

Lifebox would like to thank ELMA Philanthropies,  IZUMI Foundation, Smile Train, and UBS Optimus for supporting our COVID-19 response.

We would also like to express our gratitude and solidarity to all our partners working on the frontlines of this pandemic.

Update June 22, 2020

Lifebox has compiled a list of best practices and resources regarding PPE use, including an instructional video on donning, doffing, and reusing PPE. See the resources here.

Update June 19, 2020

Lifebox program manager Senait Bitew in Ethiopia is featured in an Every Breath Counts Coalition video on our COVID-19 response. See the video below.

Update June 17, 2020

To date, Lifebox’s COVID-19 response includes:

Lifebox pulse oximeters delivered to Donka Hospital in Guinea to support their COVID-19 preparations and response. Thanks to UBS Optimus and ELMA Philanthropies for making this possible.

  • Securing the supply of over 5000 pulse oximeters for partners working in high-risk COVID-19 regions, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

If you have a request or suggestion, please write to covid@lifebox.org.

We will continue to keep our partners and donors updated on our COVID-19-related activities as well as our ongoing work on surgical and anesthesia safety.

If you would like to support Lifebox’s work, please donate here.

Update April 24:

Lifebox has hosted a Virtual Grand Rounds webinar chaired by Prof. Abebe Bekele of UGHE. Watch a recording of the Virtual Grand Rounds: “Preparing the Perioperative Ecosystem of Sub-Saharan Africa for COVID-19”

Update April 15:

Lifebox’s core objective is to improve the safety of surgery and anesthesia in low and middle-income countries. The healthcare workers we work with everyday are now on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. In order to support them, Lifebox has rapidly re-focused our tools and training materials to help our partners respond to COVID-19.

Lifebox is working on the COVID-19 pandemic by:

  • Supplying as many pulse oximeters as possible to our partners working in high-risk COVID-19 zones.
  • Developing a decision-making tool (with ALIMA and WHO) and training videos for using a pulse oximeter to triage suspected COVID-19 patients. Why? Pulse oximeters are not only essential in safe anesthesia monitoring but also in helping medical staff determine the severity of patients experiencing respiratory problems — as COVID-19 patients may — by measuring the level of oxygen in their blood. This can assist in determining whether a patient needs oxygen therapy or not, especially important where oxygen resources might be scarce.
  • Preparing guidance and checklists for surgical teams in the context of COVID-19: Read our article in Annals of Surgery here and watch a “virtual grand rounds”.
  • Curating a list of resources for clinical partners facing COVID-19.
  • Interviewing front-line surgical and anesthesia partners

We will continue to keep our partners and donors updated on our COVID-19-related activities as well as our ongoing work on surgical and anesthesia safety.

If you would like to support Lifebox’s work, please donate here.

Update March 24:

As a global community of healthcare workers and supporters, Lifebox has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic—we have had to cancel some activities, postpone others, and above all, do everything possible to make sure our staff and partners are safe. At the same time, we have rapidly reoriented our work to do whatever we can to support our surgical and anesthesia team colleagues around the world who are on the front-lines of this unprecedented global health emergency.

We wanted to share the actions we are taking to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also want to ask for your help in achieving these.

Lifebox global team and workshops:

First and foremost, we have curtailed travel and postponed plans for workshops and other program activities. All of our team members in the UK, US, and Ethiopia are now working from home. Thank you to those who have sent their well wishes!

Lifebox COVID-19 response:

We know that all of our partners—from anesthesia and intensive care specialists to surgeons, nurses, sterile processing technicians, and hospital managers—are working around the clock to prepare for and respond to COVID-19. The full Lifebox team is doing what we can to help provide our colleagues with whatever tools and strategies we can to support and keep them safe. Currently, we are working on the following priorities:

  • • Knowing that pulse oximeters are critical for diagnosing and monitoring patients with respiratory illnesses, we are working on increasing our supply of pulse oximeters to frontline partners. With long-time partner Smile Train, Lifebox is securing additional pulse oximeters for distribution to Smile Train partner hospitals as soon as possible. We are working with Gradian Health Systems to provide pulse oximeters with ventilators to high-priority countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. We continue to look for additional partners to help us secure and distribute even more pulse oximeters.
  • We are calling on all partners around the world who have a Lifebox pulse oximeter to ensure that the device is in the hands of frontline healthcare workers, whether that is in a working OR for emergency patients, in an ICU, on the wards, or at the triage station. The Lifebox pulse oximeter is your tool, please put it to use!
  • • Working with the Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) and in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), we are supporting the development of guidelines on the use of pulse oximeters for triage and management of COVID-19 patients in low-resource settings.
  • • Together with our colleagues in Ethiopia, the World Federation Of Societies of Anesthesiologists (WFSA), The College of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa (COSECSA), and The West African College of Surgeons, we are developing resources and guidance for surgical and anesthesia teams on COVID-19 preparedness in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The situation is evolving rapidly. To stay updated on Lifebox’s work to support our partners around the world, please make sure to subscribe to our newsletter. We hope you will stay in touch and let us know how we can help or how you might be able to contribute to our efforts—we can be reached at covid@lifebox.org regarding all matters related to COVID-19.

Wishing health and safety to you, your family, and our global community,

Kris Torgeson, Global CEO, on behalf of the entire Lifebox team

Dr. Atul Gawande, Chair, on behalf of the entire Lifebox Global Governance Council



Quick Links

See COVID-19 resources on the Lifebox Pulse Oximeter here. DONATE AND SUPPORT LIFEBOX