COVID-19 and Public Health in Africa: a call for new Perspectives in Health System Strengthening

COVID-19 and Public Health in Africa: a call for new Perspectives in Health System Strengthening

Keywords: COVID-19;, Health System Strengthening;, Public Health;, Health System Building Blocks;, Health System Resilience;, Pandemic Preparedness


Africa accounts for nearly half of all deaths resulting from communicable diseases globally. A deteriorating health system can be attributed to these deaths. Unfortunately, most African countries have some of the weakest health systems. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that strong health systems are critical for the improvement of health outcomes and for accelerating progress towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to health. This has led to the rise of health system strengthening as a political agenda for countries in the WHO African Region. At a time when countries in this region are facing an economic downturn, the novel coronavirus, “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2)” adds to the challenges faced in health system strengthening. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed major weaknesses in health systems globally, presenting a major threat to the already fragile health systems in Africa, revealing the urgent need for stronger health systems in Africa. In this paper, we present an updated literature review of the pertinent gaps in Africa’s health systems and synthesized the findings by utilizing the six basic building blocks of health system strengthening (health workforce, access to equipment and essential medicines, service delivery, health information systems, leadership & governance) and other related aspects (health policy, health research, health monitoring and evaluation and disaster preparedness) in the context of COVID-19. Finally, the paper identifies priority strategies for health system strengthening in Africa.

Author Biography

Mah W Asombang
Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), P.O. Box 34681, Lusaka, Zambia.,