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90% countries faced disruption to health services amid Covid-19: WHO survey

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on August 31, 2020

Most countries reports that many routine and elective services have been suspended due to the pandemic

There has been a significant global disruption to health services amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

As per the WHO's pulse survey published today, out of the 105 countries surveyed, 90 per cent of countries have experienced disruption to its health services between March and June 2020. Low- and middle-income countries have reported the greatest difficulties.

“Most countries reported that many routine and elective services have been suspended, while critical care - such as cancer screening and treatment and HIV therapy – has seen high-risk interruptions in low-income countries,” the report said.

Outreach services are the most impacted area in terms of health services facing a 70 per cent disruption. Routine immunisation, facility-based services, non-communicable diseases diagnosis and treatment, family planning and contraception treatment for mental health disorders, cancer diagnosis and treatment have also been impacted.

“Potentially life-saving emergency services were disrupted in almost a quarter of responding countries,” the report said.

Supply-side disruptions

Multiple factors have impacted these services on the supply side. Seventy-six per cent of countries also reported reductions in outpatient care attendance due to lower demand and other factors such as lockdowns and financial difficulties, it added.

The most common factor affecting the supply of services was the cancellation of elective. Apart from this “staff redeployment to provide Covid-19 relief, unavailability of services due to closings, and interruptions in the supply of medical equipment and health products” also impacted the supply of health services.

"The survey shines a light on the cracks in our health systems, but it also serves to inform new strategies to improve healthcare provision during the pandemic and beyond,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "Covid-19 should be a lesson to all countries that health is not an ‘either-or’ equation. We must better prepare for emergencies but also keep investing in health systems that fully respond to people’s needs throughout the life course."

Published on August 31, 2020

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