Research findings published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), a weekly medical research chronicle, assessed the impact of Covid-19, health system preparedness and responses to the pandemic in Africa.
Health system responses included telephone consultations, re-purposing of available services, establishing isolation centres and providing Covid-19 guidelines, it said, outlining findings of a survey covering South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
Healthcare regression was a notable feature as healthcare systems on the continent were not ready to deal with the burden of Covid-19. This resulted in people missing essential services such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis treatment, along with maternal and child health services, the report underlined.
Up to half of the South African children did not attend child health checks, while 80 per cent of children in Sierra Leone aged under five years did not receive routine vaccinations. More than half of HIV patients in Rwanda missed their antiretroviral treatments, with sex workers in Kenya missing contraception and medical appointments, it elaborated.
Dr Gizachew Tessema, the lead researcher, said that following the pandemic, the flow of patients accessing general and essential health services such as HIV care, treatment for malaria and tuberculosis, maternal and child health services has significantly been reduced.
Interventions by global and national agencies are needed to strengthen health system resilience, via local, national and global engagement, he said, noting that improving healthcare financing should be a priority.
“Countries should direct their efforts to build a resilient health system that caters for diverse health challenges, times and people. This requires local, national, global collaboration and engagement to increase healthcare funding in Africa, he emphasised.
“Now that the world has effective Covid-19 vaccines, African countries need to embark on a coordinated capacity-building effort focused on developing, transporting and rolling out vaccinations for healthcare professionals and high-risk individuals across rural areas in particular,” he added.