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How Africa is slowly turning the healthcare tide

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Write SHPP Date19-12-05 14:53 Hit315

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How Africa is slowly turning the healthcare tide

 

Last week brought a landmark agreement between the World Health Organisation and the African Union, designed to help the continent push towards the goal of universal healthcare. Under the terms of the agreement, inked at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, the international organisation will provide specialist support to Africa’s medical agencies, reinforce its defence against epidemics and help member-states develop sustainable financing models.

 

The headline economic figures remain stark. Africa, which encompasses 11% of the world’s total population, still accounts for 60% percent of all global HIV/Aids cases and over 90% of deaths from malaria. Years of war, corruption and internecine conflict have prevented the creation of modern healthcare infrastructure; today, less than half of Africans have access to adequate medical facilities. Many of the brightest medical students continue to leave for Europe and America, and those left behind face a culture which often places excessive stock in local faith healers.

 

Signs of recovery

Like Africa as a whole, Senegal has historically suffered from a crippling lack of cancer resources. Ten thousand new cancer cases are diagnosed every year, yet the country has only a handful of cancer specialists and the cost of radiotherapy is often many times the average monthly wage. To fight this problem, the Sall administration introduced a measure last month providing free chemotherapy for women diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer, two of the most common cancers affecting Senegal’s female population.

 

The free chemotherapy for breast and cervical cancer is part of a broader initiative which will see Dakar reimburse 60% of the cost for all other types of cancer, and is just the latest step in Senegal’s drive towards universal healthcare. As recently as 2014, only 1 in 5 Senegalese people enjoyed health coverage, but Macky Sall wants to hit 100% by 2022. His administration has already provided free medical care for infants and elderly people, while also providing caesareans and dialysis at no cost. This program of reforms isn’t cheap — the new cancer policy alone is worth an estimated $1.6 billion — but it’s already bearing fruit. The infant mortality rate has dipped sharply on Sall’s watch and Dakar has received international recognition for the way it has tackled malaria.

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