COVID-19 undercuts health gains

Itai Rusike


HEALTH stakeholders have raised  concern that the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed several milestones covered in addressing challenges in the health sector.

This came out during commemorations of the World Health Day celebrations held yesterday under the theme Building a Fairer, Healthier World for Everyone.

The commemorations were held at a time when Zimbabwe’s healthcare system has suffered tremendously as a result of COVID-19.

Local and regional health rights defenders are particularly piqued by the state of hospitals which have always struggled to provide health services.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly undercut health gains made over many years, making it less likely to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 on the health and wellbeing for all by 2030. The disease has stifled progress towards universal healthcare coverage,” Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said.

He said of concern too was the fact that the disease had had a knock-on effect on livelihoods, pushed more people into poverty, food insecurity, amplified gender, social and health inequities hence increasing the vulnerability of communities.

With the third wave of COVID-19 looming in Zimbabwe, Rusike said the World Health Day commemorations presented an opportunity to reflect on health for all by addressing existing health inequities and putting in place strategies that place greater attention on improving health equity, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised groups.

“COVID-19 has hit hard, and its impact has been felt the most in communities which were already vulnerable with fragile healthcare systems. The pandemic is said to have caused a decade’s worth of gains in defeating diseases and saving lives,” he said.

World Health Organisation regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti said everyone should participate in building a fairer, healthier world.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on inequalities between countries. Amid shortages of essential supplies, African countries have been pushed to the back of the queue in accessing COVID-19 test kits, personal protective equipment and now vaccines,” she said.

Of the 548 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered worldwide, 11 million or 2% were in Africa, whereas the continent accounts for around 17% of the global population.

“There are also inequities within countries. Discrimination based on gender, place of residence, income, educational level, age, ethnicity, and disability intersects to disadvantage vulnerable populations,” Moeti said.

“To improve this situation, we need to act on the social and economic determinants of health, by working across sectors to improve living and working conditions, and access to education, particularly for the most marginalised groups. Communities need to be engaged as partners, through their networks and associations, to shape and drive health and development interventions,” she said.

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