Less than half of Africa’s population does not receive the health services they need, and vulnerable groups, including gay men and the disabled, are being left behind, according to a report.
African health systems fail to meet the needs of the poor, disabled, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and homosexuals (LGBT), with challenges ranging from discrimination and stigma to institutionalized poorly designed health, according to the African
Report of the Commission of the International Conference on the Agenda for Health (AHAIC).
Healthcare workers are not trained to deal with the LGBT population seeking healthcare services, according to a 2019 study in South Africa. LGBT people are victims of verbal abuse and denial of medical services by healthcare workers.
Another study published in January this year on the use of daily pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infections among transgender women and gay men in Kenya found that stigma in health services led to dropouts. from the program.
Healthcare workers have asked transgender women and gay men insensitive questions about their sexual orientation, resulting in dropouts, undermining efforts to achieve zero new HIV infections.
Coverage of services for women and girls is also low, according to the AHAIC Commission report launched this month (March 8-10) at a virtual conference. Between 2015 and 2019, 51% of African women and girls were unable to access modern family planning methods.
In Malawi, stroke patients were unable to access health services because they could not walk, the report added, highlighting the problems faced by people with reduced mobility.
COVID-19 has exposed many inefficiencies in our health systems. It has shown that health is not the business of health service providers, but everyone’s business. ”
Solange Hakiba, Commission Co-Chair and Party Leader, USAID-Rwanda
Poor quality health services are the worst performing indicator of universal health care (UHC) in Africa, with 48% of the population unable to access the health services they need, according to the commission.
Hakiba called for focusing on funding primary health care and non-communicable diseases such as cancer, as “they weaken the African population.”
The report reveals inequalities in the provision of health care, such as the demand for and access to family planning services being four times higher among the rich than among the poor. The World Health Organization says 11 million Africans fall into poverty each year due to high out-of-pocket payments.
The virtual conference, organized by Amref Health Africa, brought together more than 3,000 participants from Africa and other regions of government, private sector, universities and research institutions.
Jonathan Dangana, technical advisor at Amref with expertise in universal health coverage, said segments of the population such as adolescents, young people and people with special needs were at risk of being left behind. He added that the inclusion of these groups is essential to redefine the African narrative of achieving UHC, as this category constitutes more than half of Africa’s population.
Dangana explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the urgent need to achieve universal health coverage through legislation and to review primary health care strategies.
Dangana, who is also a lecturer in the Department of Public Health at Babcock University in Nigeria, said SciDev.Net that the AHAIC Commission identified the root causes of poor health services, such as workforce shortages and heavy reliance on donor funding, which could be addressed by prioritizing budget allocation and financing of health care.
“It means seeing health as an investment and not just a social responsibility,” Dangana said. “Primary health care is essential in making and ensuring that health care is accessible to all. Therefore, with a functioning primary health care system in place, achieving UHC naturally becomes [easy]. “
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told the conference that Africa needs to do much more to achieve UHC and the targets of the third goal of the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
“African countries continue to suffer from the burden of disease which can be drastically reduced through UHC,” Kenyatta said, adding that simple hygiene interventions such as hand washing could significantly reduce some viral diseases affecting Africans.