The pandemic has amplified the fragility of Africa’s health system. It has put both the public and private facilities under increased pressure. For facility owners, the past year has been one of fluctuating patient visits, increased expenditure on protective equipment, and healthcare staff shortages. This ‘cash crunch’ has forced some facilities to scale down their general health services and some had to close their doors.
Many Africans, including pregnant women, postponed health visits out of fear of infection while their health conditions worsened. Standard services like maternal and childcare, malaria care and antiretroviral treatment for HIV and TB management are under significant pressure. For those who contract COVID-19, there is hardly any support, neither counseling nor physical support to remain in quarantine. Facilities lack supplies for adequate (self-) protection, hygiene, and patient treatment.
But the COVID-19 pandemic is much more than a health crisis. The African governments’ measures to control the virus have resulted in one of the worst global economic shocks on the continent in history, with the risk of reversing the hard-won achievements of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Vaccines for Africa are still in the development phase and the COVAX initiative has covered vaccine expenditures for only 0.6 of the population.
We have observed that whilst the pandemic has delayed many development initiatives around the world, it has inadvertently created an opportunity to scale up digital innovation to deliver universal health coverage (UHC) both for the public and private sector. PharmAccess is leveraging innovative digital health interventions to respond to the crisis. Read about our COVID-19 response below.
Our COVID-19 response evolves around three pillars:
Preparing healthcare staff and facilities for new infections
Medical Credit Fund assists private healthcare providers with flexible and digital lending solutions and extends emergency loans to cope with the crisis. In 2020, it disbursed $30 million COVID-19 loans. SafeCare works with healthcare providers to improve their quality with an emphasis on patient safety and infection control. With building capacity through webinars, training and e online resources, the SafeCare4Covid app helps facilities to examine their preparedness to cater for new COVID-19 patients.
Visit SafeCare’s resources and downloads page.
Working with local governments and health facilities to strengthen surveillance, monitoring and diagnostics
With CarePay and the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, we have access to data from the M-TIBA platform for over 2,500 Kenyan healthcare providers. These dashboards provide insights into the national and regional spread of COVID-19 for citizens and policymakers. Moreover, we advise national and state technical teams on Covid-19 in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. With COVID-Dx, we increase the testing capacity of private Kenyan facilities and link these to ongoing public efforts. The project focuses on prevention and resilient recovery, mitigating the socio-economic damages of the pandemic.
Digital solutions to empower individuals and healthcare staff
Together with Luscii, a Dutch technology company working with OLVG, a hospital in Amsterdam, we rolled out CovidConnect, a digital app, and service in Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya. The digital service enables individuals to assess their risks for Covid-19 and provides home monitoring and support from remote medical staff. It also provides opportunities to develop this app for self-monitoring of other diseases, including NCDs. By monitoring risks and health-seeking behavior, we have helped Kenyan healthcare staff to implement effective new solutions for mothers to ensure continued access to antenatal health visits and skilled deliveries.