NAIROBI, May 17 (Xinhua) — Strengthening the resilience of public health systems in Africa to help them withstand climatic shocks and the threat of future pandemics will be dependent on sustained investments in supportive infrastructure, upskilling of workforce, research, and harnessing of digital technologies, experts said.
The experts who spoke Tuesday evening at a virtual forum convened by the Brookings Institution, a think tank, stressed that sufficient health financing is key to reducing Africa’s growing disease burden that has worsened poverty and inequality. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the assistant director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, proposed the adoption of innovative funding models to revitalize public health systems in Africa in a post-pandemic era.
Ihekweazu noted that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the fragility of health systems in the continent, adding that boosting their resilience and agility calls for sustained investments, policy reforms, partnerships, and digitization. The pandemic, according to Ihekweazu, served as a wake-up call for African countries to enhance surveillance, and invest in local manufacturing of medical products such as diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
African policymakers must explore innovative funding tools that would support the revamping of public health systems, retraining of the health workforce, and research geared toward the discovery of new drugs to treat infectious and non-communicable ailments, said Olusoji Adeyi, the president of Resilient Health Systems, an international advisory and strategy organization. Adeyi said African countries should accelerate domestic resources mobilization to finance healthcare amid shrinking overseas support that has disrupted national disease control programs.
Incentivizing frontline healthcare workers, establishing a robust home-grown pharmaceutical sector, and promoting cross-border partnerships will also be key to enhancing the resilience of public health systems in Africa, said Adeyi. Aloysius Uche Ordu, the senior fellow and director of Africa Growth Initiative in the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings Institution, emphasized that investing in resilient public health systems will be key to realizing socioeconomic transformation in the continent.
Ordu added that by scaling up investments in good roads, clean drinking water, basic sanitation, shelter, nutrition, and universal literacy, African nations will realize improved health outcomes for vulnerable demographics including women, children, and youth.