By Peter Uzoho
McKinsey & Company has highlighted five big ideas to safeguard lives in the Covid-19 crisis and for the continent to prepare for the future.
The global management consultancy services company stated this in a report titled: “Acting now to strengthen Africa’s health systems,” obtained recently.
It listed the five big ideas to include building robust, well-funded emergency preparedness and response mechanisms; accelerating bold health financing reforms to increase budgets and drive efficiency; and building consumer-centric digital health ecosystems.
Others are ensuring reliable access to high-quality medical commodities and equipment; as well as institutionalising community health works (CHWs) and rapidly upskill broader healthcare workforce.
It stated that while the aforementioned ideas are not new, COVID-19 highlights their importance to a broader set of decision makers and stakeholders.
The report pointed out that Africa faces a twin health crisis—a high existing disease burden and fragile health systems— that would be exacerbated by the pandemic.
It noted that lessons from previous epidemics demonstrates the devastating impact of the crises on all aspects of healthcare, not only the outbreak itself.
“This is the context in which governments and decision-makers must choose how best to spend their COVID-19 emergency funding,” it noted.
The 15-page report, stated that Africa was beginning to see exponential growth in the number of Covid-19 infections, adding that policy makers in the continent could use the billions of dollars allocated for the emergency response to save lives now, while also considering how to make prudent investment decisions that build greater health-system resilience for the future.
“The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa is yet to be known as the outbreak is constantly evolving. In recent weeks, countries have started seeing exponential growth in the spread of the disease—and the actual number of cases may be even higher.
“Our research shows a steady correlation between the number of tests and the number of new cases, and with low testing capacity on the continent, the true disease burden may be underestimated.
“The experience of previous disease outbreaks in Africa suggests that the health impact of COVID-19 could be devastating. As the pandemic unfolds, so too is an awakening to the deeper challenges facing Africa’s health care systems.
“A broader spectrum of stakeholders is now keenly feeling the con sequences of chronic underinvestment and the crisis brings a renewed sense of urgency to create momentum around health system reform and re-imagination across the continent,” it explained.
It stated that Africa faces a twin health crisis that would be exacerbated by COVID-19: a high existing disease burden and fragile health systems.
“The continent bears nearly twice the disease burden per capita, measured by disability-adjusted life year (DALY), compared to the rest of the world.
“Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are widespread and Africa accounts for 94 percent of all malaria deaths, while mother and child deaths are fourfold higher than in other regions.
“These existing comorbidities could worsen the severity of COVID-19 on the continent. Africa’s health systems are already struggling and, in some countries, not sustaining routine service delivery,” it added.
According to the report, skilled health workers are in short supply in the continent, falling 60 percent below the United Nation’s minimum threshold. Africa has only one to five per cent of the ICU beds per capita, compared to European and East Asian countries.
“Against this backdrop, governments will need to choose where and how to spend their COVID-19 emergency funds to realise maximum impact and value,” it added.
Health issues now have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for economies and societies and governments, and their developing partners can build real momentum to advance these areas, using the impetus created by COVID-19 to reimagine their approach, it stated.
“Global actions to combat COVID-19 and find a vaccine are progressing quicker than for any other pathogen in history but shed light on further inconvenient truths about the continent: its inability to develop and manufacture health commodities at scale, and question marks about its readiness to introduce and drive the rapid uptake of new vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics that will be needed to get back to a ‘new normal’.
“Unsurprisingly, there is limited African involvement in the global R&D COVID-19 disease response.
Only three clinical trials are currently underway for vaccines, two in Egypt and one in South Africa.
“Lack of R&D investment into innovations is only one part of the challenge. The other is ensuring that they are widely available and adopted,” it stated.