COVID-19: Global health systems improving for first time in 3 years — WHO

GLOBAL health systems have shown signs of improvement for the first time after COVID-19 struck the world in 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed.

The agency said in a report on Tuesday, May 2, that services such as sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, nutrition and immunisation, as well as treatment of infectious diseases, neglected tropical diseases, and non-communicable diseases, among others, had recorded improvements in hospitals.

Most countries also apply what they learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic, including institutionalising innovative service disruption mitigation strategies into their routine health service delivery, according to WHO.

These include the deployment of telemedicine approaches, promotion of home-based care or self-care interventions, approaches for strengthening health workers’ availability, capacities and support mechanisms, innovations in procuring and delivering medicines and supplies, more routine community communications, and partnerships with private sector providers.

Three-quarters of countries reported additional funding for long-term system recovery, resilience and preparedness.

The ICIR reports that COVID-19 infected nearly 700 million (687,246,434) people and killed nearly seven million (6,866,782) as of May 2, 2023.

Nigeria recorded 266,675 confirmed cases of the disease and lost 3,155.

The country is among nations whose health systems benefitted from the pandemic because of huge investments in health infrastructures largely by the private sector, and an increase in the national budget for health.

In a series of reports, The ICIR verified the procurement of multi-billion naira equipment in federal hospitals in 2022 and reported how they boosted service delivery.

Globally, between 2020 and mid-2022, the virus battered economies, resulting in near hyperinflation in countries.

An unprecedented pandemic in a century, COVID-19 denied many people their livelihoods, disrupted health systems and severed millions of people’s access to basic healthcare.

WHO said on Tuesday, “By early 2023, countries reported experiencing reduced disruptions in the delivery of routine health services, but highlighted the need to invest in recovery and stronger resilience for the future.

“Among the 139 countries that responded to the fourth round of WHO’s pulse survey, countries reported continued disruptions in almost one-quarter of services on average. In 84 countries where trend analysis is possible, the percentage of disrupted services declined on average from 56 per cent in July-September 2020 to 23 per cent in November 2022- January 2023.”

 According to the organisation, most countries reported partial signs of service recovery by the end of 2022. 

The agency said the number of countries reporting disruption to their national supply chain system reduced from nearly half (29 of 59 responding countries) to about a quarter (18 of 66 responding countries) within the last year.

However, despite signs of recovery, service disruptions persist across countries in all regions and income levels and most service delivery settings and tracer service areas. 

Besides, countries are also dealing with increasing service backlogs – most frequently in services for screening, diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases – which can lead to negative consequences as people are delayed access to timely care.

WHO argued that recovering essential health service delivery was critical because disruptions – including services for health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and palliation – could have greater adverse health effects at the population and individual level than the pandemic itself, especially among vulnerable people. 



    The agency further observed that most countries had made progress in integrating COVID-19 services into routine health service delivery in another important step towards system recovery and transition. 

    About 80-90 per cent of countries have fully integrated COVID-19 vaccination, diagnostic and case management services, and services for post-COVID-19 conditions into routine service delivery. 

    Reacting, WHO Director for Integrated Health Services, Rudi Eggers, a doctor, said, “It is welcome news that health systems in the majority of countries are starting to restore essential health services for millions of people who missed them during the pandemic.

    “But we need to ensure that all countries continue to close this gap to recover health services, and apply lessons learnt to build more prepared and resilient health systems for the future.”

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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