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African countries urged to build climate resilient health systems

3 March, 2021
African countries urged to build climate resilient health systems

Brazzaville, Congo, March 3, 2021 (ECA) - The novel coronavirus pandemic has exposed massive fragilities in Africa’s health delivery system with participants at the ongoing 7th African Development Forum for Sustainable Development (ARFSD) calling on the continent to start building climate resilient healthcare systems to meet the challenges of the future.

Contributing to debate, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, noted that the pandemic had seriously curtailed health delivery on the continent with lockdowns and border closures affecting the movement of goods and services, impacting the delivery of healthcare products and services.

Dr. Humphrey Karamagi of the WHO Regional Office for Africa, gave an overview of the SDG3 which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

He said COVID-19 was also disrupting other services which in turn were affecting the well-being of populations. Dr. Karamagi added that sexual and reproductive health services for women had also been affected with women failing to access services for sexual reproductive health as a result of the pandemic.

The impact, he said, also affected the healthcare workforce, as practitioners got infected with the virus, leaving the continent with insufficient healthcare workers to help respond to the pandemic.  

The long closure of schools, Dr. Karamagi said, will have a long term effect on health, even though, the pandemic has led to an improvement in personal hygiene as people now frequently wash their hands.

As the pandemic has exposed the inequalities in health access, and access to information, it is time to move towards universal health care, apply inter-sectoral approaches and build climate resilient health systems, he stated.

“We must start thinking of climate resilient health systems,” he said.

Dr. Maha El Rabbat, Special Envoy of the WHO Director-General on COVID-19, noting that while progress had been made on the health front over the past few years, progress had been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. The pandemic has added to already existing challenges in Africa’s healthcare systems such as disparities and inequalities.

“These challenges, have underscored the fragility and availability of health services, and no one is safe, until everyone is safe,” she said.

Dr. El Rabbat said African countries need to tackle inequalities, and must have a new vision to be able to build better in the future.

In her contribution, Julitta Onabanjo of the UNFPA said COVID-19 has put a spotlight on primary healthcare and emergency services on the continent. She called for accelerated universal access to comprehensive reproductive health services for women.

Panel members agreed that there was need for African countries to drive towards integration, resilience and build a fit for purpose health system.


Issued by:

Communications Section

Economic Commission for Africa

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