Combating communicable diseases
|Abdu Osman, Jul 29, 2008|
In addition, shortage of enough resources for combating communicable disease is a principal challenge that faces developing nation; it however, can’t be blamed as the sole contributing factor to persistence of health problems in poor regions of the world. Inability to identify major public health problems and to set relevant strategies to combat them, added with the widespread corruption also perpetuate poor health situation. Transparency International estimates that, on average 10 to 25% of public procurement spending in the health sector is lost to corruption. Resources that could otherwise be used to buy medicines or recruit much needed health professionals are wasted as a result of corruption, which reduces the availability of essential medicines. Besides, due to lack of institutional capacity to identify main public health problems, most African nations apply the right policies and strategies in the wrong situations. For example, they build high cost surgical hospitals in capital cities, while the vast majority of their people, who often live in rural areas and small towns, suffer from communicable disease.
However, some African countries like Egypt and Eritrea have shown good progress in improving basic health care by strongly combating these chronic diseases. They succeeded in making good quality health service affordable to the poor. Despite poverty, Egypt has reduced mother and infant mortality. Similarly, in the past ten years, Eritrea has shown good progress that enabled it earn an international praise.
In 1999 Eritrea introduced policies, and multi- level interventions targeting households, communities and health facilities to combat malaria and other communicable diseases. The comprehensive HIV/AIDS, Malaria, STDS and TB (HAMSET) Control Project has registered commendable success. As a result, Eritrea won broad acclaim and was cited as an exemplary nation at the recent (May 2008) Burkina Faso International Conference on Basic Health Care for its success in reducing child and maternal mortality as well as for reducing incidents of malaria by 90% and eradication of polio and neonatal tetanus measles.
Moreover, although in the last few years malaria epidemic spread- three times in the neighboring countries, thanks to its watchful health policy, Eritrea was not affected.
In 2000, African leaders met in Abuja and adopted the Abuja Declaration, which called for a 50% reduction in malaria mortality by 2010. Within 5 years Eritrea almost met the Abuja Declaration objectives through multiple vector-control methods, case management and surveillance. As part of the government’s policy to increase accessibility to basic health services, 13 new hospitals, 19 new health centers and 112 new health stations have so far been constructed all over Eritrea. The Orotta School of Medicine, which began its educational program in 2004 with 32 medical students, has now grown fivefold to around 180 medical students. In addition, the Asmara College of Health Sciences, the Asmara College of Nursing and Health Technology are also producing health care providers to fulfill the human resource needs at the various facilities around the country.
From the Eritrea’s experience, one can conclude that, if African governments get politically determined and practice good governance, as well as put right policies and strategies in place; can certainly improve basic health care systems regardless of poverty by making a thorough use of the available resources.