‘Regional health systems struggle with Covid’
MASERU – While significant progress in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic has been made, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Lesotho Dr Richard Banda, says many health systems in the region are still struggling to cope with Covid-19. He said this adds pressure to managing other conditions, with work shortages and fatigued health workers. Dr Banda said Covid-19 has exposed serious gaps in defenses against epidemics and pandemics, saying there is still much to be done to respond to preparations for future pandemics.
January 2023 marked three years of the pandemic, Dr Banda said there is no doubt the world is in a far better situation now than a year ago, when Omicron wave was at peak. Speaking during the 71st Health Minister’s Conference of the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC) held in Maseru, whose theme is ‘Stronger health systems post Covid-19 for the attainment of universal health coverage in ECSA Region’ Dr Banda further said the suffering and loss countries have endured will be in vain unless all learn the painful lessons that Covid-19 is teaching them to put in place, the measures to make the world safer.
He said: “There is still much to be done to respond to prepare for future pandemics, because we know that this will not be the last, the next one is a matter of when, not if.” Director General of the Ministry of Health, Dr ’Nyane Letsie, has called on countries to strengthen systems for the prevention to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. Dr Letsie said many stakeholders can play their role in prevention for as long as they are engaged in both planning and implementation. She further noted that if they are constantly achieved, the goal of containment can be achieved as well as optimal treatment. She said: “Our systems can comfortably manage prevention and related activities.”
Apart from that, she said prevention is better than cure, noting that it can have a direct impact if community health workers are really capacitated as frontline workers not otherwise. In order to adequately strengthen health systems, she said there is a need to know risks and develop multi-hazard plans that will also indicate key players and stakeholders. She said evidence has shown that there is no need to wait for any diseases to occur, but to build resilient systems that will constantly and continuously respond to emerging and re-emerging diseases. The Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Health, ’Maneo Ntene, said health systems in respective countries were almost at breaking point “and many of us are still reeling from the disastrous effects of the pandemic. We are of course not completely out of the woods, hence the need to consider how to build stronger health systems based on the lessons we learned.”
“Over the years, we have witnessed significant growing concerns in health requiring the attention of our national governments as well as regional efforts and collaboration. “The majority of these challenges are known and we have discussed them in the various international fora, made commitments and came up with positions,” she said. Further, she said health is not only a development issue, but also a human right. As countries continue to find ways of providing affordable and accessible health care, she noted that all need to remember not to take too long to reach people with the services and to attain universal health coverage, noting that this is a challenge to all and the solutions will come from no one but from those who are responsible.
She further highlighted that population in various countries is growing while on the other hand resources remain scarce to fund delivery of comprehensive health services. “It is therefore crucial that we explore different mechanisms for funding healthcare and be prudent on utilising resources that we have at our disposal. “Our policy guidance and direction should then be geared towards the creation and supporting of effective and sustainable financing mechanisms aimed at improving the health of our people,” Ntene said. ECSA is an intergovernmental health organisation that fosters and promotes regional cooperation in health among its member states. The states are: Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius and Lesotho among countries. ECSA Health Community works with countries and partners to raise the standard of health for the people of the ECSA region by promoting efficiency and effectiveness of health services through cooperation, collaboration and research.