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WHO: 90% of countries’ health services continue to be disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic

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WHO: 90% of countries’ health services continue to be disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic
WHO: 90% of countries' health services continue to be disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic
Written by Harry Johnson

WHO will continue to support countries so they can respond to increased strains on health systems

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  • In 2020, countries surveyed reported that about half of essential health services were disrupted
  • In the first 3 months of 2021, that figure had dropped to just over one third of services
  • More than half the countries say they have recruited additional staff to boost the health workforce

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 90 percent of countries’ health services continue to be disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some signs of progress however: in 2020, countries surveyed reported that, on average, about half of essential health services were disrupted. In the first 3 months of 2021, that figure had dropped to just over one third of services.

Overcoming disruptions

Many countries have now stepped up efforts to mitigate disruptions. These include informing the public about changes to service delivery and providing advice about ways to safely seek healthcare. They are identifying and prioritizing patients with the most urgent needs.

More than half the countries say they have recruited additional staff to boost the health workforce; redirected patients to other care facilities; and switched to alternative methods to delivering care, such as providing more home-based services, multi-month prescriptions for treatments, and increasing the use of telemedicine.

WHO and its partners have also been helping countries to better respond to the challenges being placed on their health systems; strengthen primary healthcare, and advance universal health coverage.

“It is encouraging to see that countries are beginning to build back their essential health services, but much remains to be done”, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO.

“The survey highlights the need to intensify efforts and take additional steps to close gaps and strengthen services. It will be especially important to monitor the situation in countries that were struggling to provide health services before the pandemic.”

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