Invest in health systems strengthening to effectively respond to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly exposed the cracks in health systems worldwide – but particularly in low-income countries, e.g. in African countries. Our partner organisations in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda shared their concerns about developments on national level, such as the lack of information on COVID-19, health workforce shortages, and disruption of key essential and emergency services including for sexual and reproductive health. We have incorporated these concerns, together with our analysis of COVID-19 and health systems, and our recommendations, in a new joint position paper.

Before COVID-19, many health systems in African countries were already under severe strain. Our partners KELIN (in Kenya), MHEN (in Malawi), N’weti (in Mozambique), CEHURD (in Uganda) and a partner organisation in Tanzania shared how the pandemic has been affecting their countries’ health systems. Next to the aforementioned concerns, they also highlighted problems relating to access to medicines and vaccines, restricted access to health services due to lockdown or curfews, the added burden on vulnerable and marginalized groups (e.g. refugees, people with chronic diseases, LGBTQIA+ community), and redirection of critical funds from sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programmes to COVID-19.

Yes, it’s worth the investment: we need to strengthen health systems
There are no shortcuts to creating resilient and sustainable health systems that provide UHC and can incorporate responses to new health challenges such as COVID-19. A key structural mid- to long-term COVID-19 response is to invest in health systems strengthening, in a joint undertaking between governments in low- and middle-income countries and donor governments.

Read our position paper on strengthening health systems.*
The paper has also been translated into Portuguese by our partner N’weti.

*Update June 10th 2020: an earlier version of our paper included the wrong date of the launch of the COVID-19 Technology Pool. This date has been corrected in a new version, which can be accessed via the abovementioned link.

Photo credit: USAID – Mozambique Vaccination (via Flickr)

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