African countries, like other countries of the Global South (e.g. Syria and Venezuela) are struggling with huge shortages in the health care system. The Polish Medical Mission works on the spot providing the necessary assistance in Zambia, Tanzania and Senegal, among others.
‘It is difficult to tell the inhabitants, do not go to work, stay at home because it means that the whole family will not eat any meal in the evening. People don't have the money to stay at home and buy food for a few days, especially here in Tanzania,' says Marijke Slendebroek, a doctor and local PMM coordinator in Tanzania.
Tanzania 2020, production: Polish Medical Mission
In some African countries, unemployment is as high as 34%, with another 40% living on USD 1-2 a day and such a situation may lead to famine. On top of that, there is the inefficiency of the health care service which is still only available to the richer people in Africa.
‘Health care in African countries is usually paid so people come to hospital only when they really can no longer risk their lives without medical help. Unfortunately, this very often means death immediately after arrival at the hospital because it is too late to rescue them,’ says Małgorzata Olasińska-Chart, Director of the PMM Humanitarian Aid Programme.
In African conditions where hardly anyone has a car in rural areas, a journey to the hospital involves hiring a taxi or walking for several hours. The average distance to a health care centre should be 5 kilometres and an hour’s walk but very often the centres are 10 kilometres or more away from the village.
Apart from Dakar, there is no region in Senegal where the requirements regarding the number of doctors and medical staff relative to the population size are met. For example, in the Fatick region, there is a health care centre with 1 doctor per 102,050 inhabitants, twice the number recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
At present, no one is able to state how many Africans are infected as there are only 325 tests per million inhabitants. Most hospitals and health care centres are not prepared to receive a coronavirus-infected patient. Protective equipment is difficult to get hold of and prices are rising steadily.
‘The only solution is prophylaxis and prevention. The Polish Medical Mission prepares quarantine facilities, equips medical personnel with protective clothing and educates the community about virus prevention. However, effective medical assistance requires a lot of work and money,’ adds Olasińska-Chart.