The Covid pandemic has exacerbated weaknesses in health systems, especially in poor countries

In many poor countries, the pandemic has had fatal consequences for people in need of health care. Children did not get the required vaccinations, women had to give birth at home rather than in a clinic, more women died due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, access to contraception has declined and 1.4 million women have had an unintended pregnancy. And calls to hotlines for women victims of domestic violence and for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people increased by 700%.

It is only when we have fallen ill that we truly understand the value of being healthy, and we have never discussed health issues as much as we do now. The pandemic is dominating the world, with appallingly high numbers of Covid-19 cases and death rates, lockdowns lead to economic crisis, increased poverty and hunger.

Despite this, we must look beyond Covid-19 and focus on treating the diseases that most people die from in the poorest countries, such as tuberculosis, malaria, measles, pneumonia and diarrhea. There are remedies for all of this.

The pandemic has exposed weak links and systems that need to be improved and developed – health and medical care is one and access to water and sanitation is another.

Millions of people get sick, require intensive care, have persistent symptoms, or die. It is estimated that, worldwide, 2.5 million people have died from Covid-19 in the first year of the pandemic, 90% of whom are from high- or upper-middle-income countries. Covid has also caused many deaths in low- and lower-middle-income countries. But many more people, mainly women and children, have died from the indirect effects of the pandemic and the measures taken to combat it.

This is where government aid, alongside other actors, has a major role to play. But we must work for better and more sustainable health care, equitable and accessible to all. We will not be able to achieve sustainable development for everyone in the world if we do not invest heavily in good health and robust health systems capable of withstanding pandemics as well as environmental and climate disasters and conflicts.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) on more than 80 countries, 1.4 million fewer people received treatment for tuberculosis in 2020 compared to 2019 and it is feared that half a million died of the disease because they did not seek or receive adequate health care.

When clinics close and going to another clinic further away takes longer and costs more, people do not get the care or medication they need and run the risk of their condition deteriorating and being affected. will die.

The risk of getting sick with malaria has also increased. In Uganda alone, 120,000 anti-malarial mosquito nets were not distributed last year. Millions of children suffer from malnutrition and hunger, and in some areas the figure is higher among girls than boys.

The companies have been in confinement and, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), 168 million children are still affected by school closings in 34 countries.

Added to these challenges are the economic recession, rising food prices and the resulting famine, with the risk that global development will set back five to ten years, and that the sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda , aiming to create a better world for all and ultimately sustainable health for both people and the planet will not be respected.

In other words, health has been negatively affected on a broad front, as has the health care system. The capacity of all health care systems must be expanded to provide quality preventive and curative care so that far-sighted politicians can make informed decisions based on statistics illustrating real needs, so that we have a staff. more and better trained health care providers in various categories, so that clinics and pharmacies are open where people live and health care is provided in accordance with local requirements.

For many years Swedish government aid has worked on capacity building and funding the education and training of health personnel, but it is vital that countries themselves devote more funds to health care. It is only when countries themselves prioritize health and medical care that systems become sustainable in the long run.

It is also important to strengthen the capacity to provide equitable and equal quality care, free from corruption. Patients shouldn’t have to pay bribes to get good health care, be forced to undergo unnecessary exams that inflate the bill, or pay for expensive or counterfeit drugs. Healthcare loses huge sums of money every year to corruption and these problems will worsen now that the Covid-19 vaccination campaigns have started.

Swedish aid has invested in building research capacity in low- and middle-income countries for decades and has used this research to improve the efficiency and quality of health care systems. Two examples are Sweden’s research collaboration with Makerere University in Uganda, which has helped reduce maternal and child mortality in the country, and Sweden’s support for the WHO Alliance for Research on health policies and systems, which takes a holistic approach to improve the capacity of middle-income countries to deliver good health care for all. Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) health programs in Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Zambia, South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe have also provided assistance to strengthen the health systems of these countries. In Somalia, Sida has supported new and improved health facilities to provide much needed health services to regions. Aid in Zambia, Uganda, South Sudan and Zimbabwe ensured good food and nutrition supplies.

The most pressing issue right now is to strengthen vaccination programs so that the Covid vaccine does not deprive staff of childhood vaccines and maternity and child health care can remain open and safe.

People also need the correct information to have the courage to seek treatment at this time of “infodemics“. Investments in digital healthcare and information are crucial in this regard.

The pandemic and its aftermath will not leave anyone untouched, but a crisis always presents new opportunities and new solutions that must be tested. Although many immediate needs have been exacerbated by the pandemic, we can now build on the change and make improvements to it, for example, power, energy and transportation systems and urban development to ensure we do not not go beyond planetary borders.

These profound transformations are necessary to reduce both the short and long term vulnerability of society and to enable “sustainable health” for people and the planet. But we have to start with the health and medical systems, which are an essential part of stopping the pandemic, as well as preventing and detecting future ones. And we must ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to quality health care and medical care.

About Franklin Bailey

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