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COVID-19 impacts on healthcare access in sub-Saharan Africa: an overview

Jean-Philippe Chippaux1 [ + show more ]

J Venom Anim Toxins incl Trop Dis, 2023, 29: e20230002
Received: 04 January 2023 | Accepted: 30 May 2023 | Published online: 03 July 2023


This overview aimed to describe the situation of healthcare access in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, during the COVID-19 pandemic. A PubMed® search from March 31, 2020, to August 15, 2022, selected 116 articles. Healthcare access and consequences of COVID-19 were assessed based on comparisons with months before its onset or an identical season in previous years. A general reduction of healthcare delivery, associated with the decline of care quality, and closure of many specialty services were reported. The impact was heterogeneous in space and time, with an increase in urban areas at the beginning of the pandemic (March-June 2020). The return to normalcy was gradual from the 3rd quarter of 2020 until the end of 2021. The impact of COVID-19 on the health system and its use was attributed to (a) conjunctural factors resulting from government actions to mitigate the spread of the epidemic (containment, transportation restrictions, closures of businesses, and places of entertainment or worship); (b) structural factors related to the disruption of public and private facilities and institutions, in particular, the health system; and (c) individual factors linked to the increase in costs, impoverishment of the population, and fear of contamination or stigmatization, which discouraged patients from going to health centers. They have caused considerable socio-economic damage. Several studies emphasized some adaptability of the healthcare offer and resilience of the healthcare system, despite its unpreparedness, which explained a return to normal activities as early as 2022 while the COVID-19 epidemic persisted. There appears to be a strong disproportion between the moderate incidence and severity of COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa, and the dramatic impact on healthcare access. Several articles make recommendations for lowering the socioeconomic consequences of future epidemics to ensure better management of health issues.

Keywords: COVID-19; pandemic; impact; health service; healthcare access; Sub-Saharan Africa

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