Corona a wake up call to healthcare systems

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020 00:00 |
A passenger sanitizes his hands before departure to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Covid-19 pandemic has struck at the heart of humanity, inflicting serious health concerns while disrupting every aspect of life.

As a global community, we are facing a challenge unprecedented in our lifetime.

The ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic are already being felt in the political, social and economic spheres that spare no nation powerful or poor.  

Worries about the future are taking hold in our daily lives with the enduring uncertainty of the outbreak in our communities. Lives and livelihoods are being severely disrupted, travel curtailed and economies shaken.

With the whole world in a virtual lockdown, controlling the spread of the pandemic that has affected 141 countries, infected more than 156,700 and killed more than 5,800, has become the most critical agenda. 

Last week, Kenya reported its first case, sparking alarm as the coronavirus spread dramatically in Europe and North America after the worst situation in China, where the outbreak was first reported.

Governments are battling to shore up their healthcare systems and initiate the right measures to manage the spread of the disease.

Ominously, experts warn that in many parts of the world the effects of the virus will get worse before they get better.

Only close cooperation and expertise on a global scale will help governments, especially in Africa, strengthen systems under the Global Health Security Agenda to prepare for this kind of outbreak.

Described as the worst public health crisis in a generation, scientists are racing to learn more about coronavirus.

We must build our healthcare system to take care of ourselves through political commitment, proactive action and preventive measures – preparedness and surveillance.

In September last year, world leaders, diplomats, civil society and philanthropists met at the 74th annual United Nations General Assembly to discuss the most pressing challenges facing humanity – climate change and healthcare.

More than 170 UN members analysed a bold blueprint for change which emphasised the world needs to speed up the move towards a new model of development laid out in the sustainable development goals for 2030.

The Assembly discussed universal health care (UHC) after governments approved the first international agreement that commits them to providing UHC access.

A fundamental change in approach is needed to ensure that all people can secure healthcare based on statistics indicating that at least half of the world’s population lack access to essential healthcare services. 

Various challenges face the African health sector – high costs of largely imported medicines, human resources and infrastructure gaps that limit the availability of quality essential healthcare services.

Statistics from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa report “Healthcare and Economic Growth in Africa” provide quantitative evidence that life expectancy has increased, infant mortality has decreased and Africa is now healthier than it was 20 years ago.

However, the report points out troubling trends in health finance put these gains at risk. Africa has a health financing gap of $66 billion annually.

Only three African governments have met the suggested 15 per cent allocation of GDP for health, as outlined by the 2001 Abuja Declaration. Kenya is not one of them.

Now more than ever before, health is demanding passion, concern and investment. We must not re-awaken only when confronted with outbreaks such as the AIDS emergency in the 2000s, ebola in 2014 and now coronavirus. 

The world must collectively remain focused on healthcare equity in the knowledge that African nations are in the frontline defence against humanity’s oldest shared worst enemies of infectious diseases. [email protected]

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