Common Health Challenges Faced in Africa
The African continent has been the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2010, approximately 68% of all individuals living with HIV were inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa regardless of the fact that the region accounts for only 12% of the world’s population. While AIDS may be one of the most discussed health challenges faced in Africa, it is not the only one threatening the livelihood of millions. Cancer, diabetes, malnutrition, polio, measles, malaria and even the common cold result in millions of death annually.
Healthcare in Africa is very diverse depending on the country as well as the region. Those living in urban areas are more likely to receive good medical care than those in rural and remote regions including the countless refugee camps scattered over Africa. Many of these communities don’t have access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities which lead to an increase in illnesses caused by poor hygiene such as diarrhoea and cholera. Health Challenges Faced in Africa on a daily basis are, sadly, not only limited to a lack of natural resources such as water and are often the cause of blatant human disregard.
The number, capability, and quality of healthcare workers across African countries as a ratio to the population are extremely low. Sub-Saharan Africa averages 1.15 health workers for every 1000 citizens with the severe shortage in nurses and midwives meaning that over two-thirds of African women are in no contact with health care professionals following childbirth. Due to this shortage, Africa accounts for more than half of the world’s maternal and child deaths. Hospitals and clinics in Africa are often faced with the inability to employ sufficient numbers of trained medical staff to cope with the number of people in desperate need of medical care. Although countries train their own medical professionals, many decide to work abroad in a bid to escape instability or to practice under better working conditions and a higher salary.
Corruption within the public sector
Corruption diverts a lot of much-needed resources away from health care delivery and significantly reduces patient access to services. Examples of such corruption include healthcare workers that sell drugs that are meant to be free as well as theft and the diversion of drugs and supplies at government distribution points. In addition to all of this, bribes to get approval for drug registration results in counterfeit drugs ‘legally’ entering the markets.
An obscure consequence of the significant technological advances within the medical field sees the enabling of counterfeiters to run sophisticated operations, making counterfeit drugs harder to detect. This is a very common practice in Nigeria where, despite having track and trace systems in place, there is evidence that some of these systems are being successfully copied by fake drug producers. As a result of this counterfeit drugs now present themselves as authentic medication, to the severe detriment of the various communities.
In order to bridge the healthcare gap, African countries have to not only attempt to retain their health care practitioners but need to embrace technology as well. While the government is responsible for ensuring access to basic health care for everyone the private sector also needs to step up and assist where possible.