It has only been a few months since Covid-19 broke into our lives, but it seems like our reality has completely shifted. The first reports of a mysterious virus came in the first weeks of 2020, then came the pictures of millions under lockdown in the city of Wuhan, and then, all hell broke loose. In a few short weeks, millions around the world contracted the virus and fear level arose, with new symptoms and effects discovered on an almost daily basis.
As the virus spread and the level of public concern increased, efforts to aid the health sector expanded, with huge budgets allocated for equipment and support, all around the world, and more specifically across Africa. Covid has definitely established a severe, scary reality. But it is important to remember that even at its peak, this current epidemic is not the biggest problem of the African health system. In fact, it is precisely the efforts to aid and support the health sector during Covid that can have the opposite effect.
New Pandemic, Old Issues
With under-developed infrastructure, the health sector in sub-Saharan Africa was on the verge of collapsing long before Covid- 19. The physician-per capita ratio is the lowest in the world, and stands at 2.2 physicians per 10,000 citizens - less than one-sixth of the world average. And if that’s not enough, over 90% of doctors work in or near major cities, while hundreds of millions of people living in remote communities remain medically underserved.
But it is not just trained personnel who are missing in the remote clinics. According to a McKinsey report, only 28% of those clinics have “reliable” electricity, while technological solutions are a distant dream. Thus, although the region’s population makes up only 11% of the world’s population, it carries 24% of the world’s disease burden.
In such a reality, the Covid-19 epidemic is another drop in an ocean of problems. According to estimates, achieving the level of health-care services demanded by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, would require an estimated investment of $ 25- $ 30 billion in the next decade, and this was the case long before the epidemic spread.
In recent months, the fight to stop the epidemic has received unprecedented public attention, one that the health sector in Africa has long desired. Budgets also began to flow and enabled the purchase of equipment worth tens of billions of dollars. At the end of the day, this is a zero-sum game: every dollar currently spent on purchasing a mask or respirator comes at the expense of future investment in technologies, drugs or vaccines that are crucial in fighting other diseases.
The problems in the health sector in SSA are much greater than the Covid-19 epidemic.
The region has had to deal with the outbreak of other epidemics over the years, and without a substantial change, will have to do so in the future, regardless of the coronavirus. Improving infrastructure in remote communities, installing advanced technologies, using remote care solutions and more, can all significantly improve medical service and enable a broad impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of people. But these solutions cost money. If the most basic problems are forgotten in favor of Covid-19, “older” problems will not only be forsaken, but deteriorate even more.
Here Today, Better Tomorrow
There is another way. With deep thinking and careful planning, it is possible to invest in technological solutions that will help the medical teams that are fighting the spread of the virus today, and will continue to help them in the future as well.
That is why we decided to invest capital into Ignite Medical Services, which provides medical teams in remote communities with advanced technological solutions that enable better diagnostics and tracking of Covid-19 patients, will also help prevent further outbreaks of epidemics in the future and provide better daily care to hundreds of millions of people. Technological solutions such as smart ultrasound devices, blood tests and affordable X-rays, which are tailored to the needs of medical staff in remote communities, enable better coping with the virus today, and better medical care for various conditions in the future.
The health sector in sub-Saharan Africa has been craving resources and public attention for decades. Now, all eyes are on Covid- 19. But if we focus all our attention and resources on dealing with only one virus, we will damage the whole sector, and will miss an unprecedented opportunity for fundamental change.
If, on the other hand, we are able to invest in dual, sustainable solutions, we can help the medical teams fighting the virus today and also lead the entire sector to a more advanced and healthier future, helping hundreds of millions of people who need it most.