Over one year after it’s occurence, COVID-19 is still changing the wordl, affecting health care systems all around the world. While hopes are high that vaccines will offer relief, a recent Lancet paper highlights the need to increase investment and support health system in order to build back better after this pandemic.
In “Health systems neglected by COVID-19 donors”, the Lancet points out that while donors “talk in strong terms about the importance of resilient health systems”, in fact only 6% of the overall contributions to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) have been reserved for health-care systems, with only one of the top seven ACT-A donors (Germany) earmarking for health systems.
ACT-A initially neglected health systems as a stand-alone pillar, only adding it to the September 2020 investment.
Due to an overall shortage in political and financial commitments, the so-called “health systems connector” (HSC) pillar is the least funded, receiving only $361 million out of the total $9 billion need. However, as the Lancet rightly points out, even if the pillar was fully funded, a large range of issues remain unconsidered in the $9 billion ask.
An extra $9.7 billion is needed to support the health systems of the poorest countries.
In order to tackle this pandemic efficiently, health systems around the world are in need of urgent support. In addition to oxygen and PPE, support is needed for “the cost of disposal of PPE, investments in electricity grids and pipes to make oxygen functional, the shortage of health workers, training, and the added pressure on infrastructure, such as cold chains”. Growing concerns over the inequity of access to COVID-19 tools have thus far only referred to the existing funding gap – but WHO, the Global Fund, and the World Bank estimate that an extra $9.7 billion is needed to support the health systems of the poorest countries.
Only strong systems can in fact take effective pandemic control leaving low income countries with the double burden of lack of vaccines and weak health systems.
On a continental level, the EU has taken first steps towards strengthening the EU’s health systems by initiating the establishment of HERA in order to tackle future pandemics through crisis preparedness and management (Read about ‘A new EU Global Health Strategy: Why it’s needed and how it should look’ here).
The same efforts are needed, now more than ever, all around the world – and low and middle income countries are no exception. In many L/MIC’s, the pandemic has stressed supply chains and increased risks for people living with HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, poliovirus and other non-communicable diseases.
With health systems facing the dual challenge of providing essential services while rolling out efficient and effective COVID-19 treatment action, inequalities are further exacerbated. Only strong systems can in fact take effective pandemic control – leaving low income countries with the double burden of lack of vaccines and weak health systems. This crisis is an opportunity to implement changes that benefit both health security and Universal Health Coverage – let’s take it!