The African Development Bank Group (AFDBG) says about 29 million Africans, especially in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to suffer extreme poverty due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
The bank said studies had shown that COVID-19 had tested the economic capacities of countries and the situation was particularly problematic for most ECOWAS countries.
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the President, AfDB, disclosed this on Friday in Abuja at the 22nd Ordinary Session of Assembly of Health Ministers of ECOWAS.
The Ordinary Session of West African Health Organization, (WAHO), is an annual meeting of the sub-continent’s 15-member state to brainstorm on health-related issues in the region and find possible solutions.
The 22nd session of the Assembly of Health Ministers of ECOWAS, is focused on discussing how the region can surmount future pandemics.
Adesina, represented by Dr. Beth Dunford, AfDB’s Vice-President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, said the event was expected to provide the ministers an objective economic assessment that stressed the need for renewed efforts towards ending the pandemic for economic recovery.
He noted that the session came at a challenging time of the COVID-19 era, and also as a window of tremendous opportunity for collaboration to improve the sub-region’s healthcare infrastructure.
According to him, in spite of the noticeable progress in health status, Africa still bore 24 per cent of the global disease burden, although the continent is host to only about 15 per cent of the world’s population.
He added that infectious and parasitic diseases were responsible for 60 per cent of deaths worldwide, noting that most of these deaths were preventable and occurred in Africa.
The AfDB president said that Africa’s burden of disease was projected to increase by 28 per cent, this decade as epidemic outbreaks such as Ebola became more frequent.
“Health service delivery infrastructure is at the center of health systems but these services lag behind on the continent.
“First, health service delivery is underfunded, at approximately 4.5 billion dollars in annual Capex investment, compared with the need of 26 billion dollars estimated by the bank.
“By comparison, countries like Laos, Vietnam, India or Bolivia spend more than 20 per cent of government health expenditure on infrastructure, compared to only 6 to 7 per cent in Africa,” he explained.
Adesina added that Africa’s health infrastructure underperforms in critical dimensions of access, quality, efficiency.
”For instance, around 30 per cent of African populations live over two hours away from essential health services. The risk of death after surgery in Africa is double the global average, and diagnostic accuracy by healthcare workers is as low as 30 per cent in some countries.
“The lack of structural and operational efficiency results in high costs and compromised care.
“In addition, existing health service delivery infrastructure is inadequately prepared to respond to crises, or to adapt to rapidly evolving needs,” he said.
According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic and other epidemics in recent years highlight major deficits in national health systems and related infrastructure across Africa.
“Only 51 per cent of primary health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa have access to basic water and sanitation services.
“Africa has only 1.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people – compared to 2.1 in Latin America and 6.1 in Europe. These gaps underlie Africa’s vulnerability to repeated health crises and consequent development reversals.
“The severity of the pandemic, and the economic crisis it has triggered, has created a unique opportunity to address longstanding deficits in health infrastructure and services,” he noted.
Adesina, however, said in the wake of the pandemic, African countries also faced sharply constrained fiscal resources and rising debt levels.
He pointed out that access to finance for health infrastructure would be a significant constraint on the development of the health system in the coming years.
According to him, to help address this finance gap, the AfDB announced a COVID-19 Rapid Response Facility committing to provide up to $10 billion – of which over 4 billion dollars disbursed last year – to African governments.
He further disclosed that in March, the bank also rolled out its award-winning 3 billion dollars COVID-19 Social Bond – the largest dollar- denominated social bond launched in international capital markets at that time.
He said that the bank financed African regions through regional COVID-19 projects and provided also budget support operations in various countries.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Guinea and Mali were absent at the 22nd Ordinary Session of the West African Ministers of Health.