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Humanitarian crisis crippling public health sector
Sunday 10 October 2004
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SOUTHERN AFRICA: Humanitarian crisis crippling public health sector

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

©  IRIN/James Hall

The health system is not coping with the prevalence of orphans

JOHANNESBURG, 16 September (PLUSNEWS) - As a rising number of HIV/AIDS patients turn to already over-stretched public sector facilities, the ongoing humanitarian crisis is undermining the quality of care in Southern Africa's health system.

Two years after committing themselves to respond to the humanitarian emergency, health ministers from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) are now faced with "vicious and destructive spirals" of rising HIV/AIDS deaths and deepening poverty, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa said in a statement.

The region's health sector was "not in a good position" to deal with the catastrophe, which was continuing "with a vengeance", WHO warned.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic remains the biggest challenge, leaving whole communities extremely vulnerable.

An assessment carried out by WHO and health ministries in the six worst affected countries revealed high mortality of infants and children under five, with the prevalence of orphans at an unacceptable 15 to 20 percent .

Despite efforts to avert famine over the last two years, indicators of chronic malnutrition remained high.

WHO expressed concern about the low access to and use of health services, as people were too poor to afford healthcare.

In turn, health systems did not have the capacity to cope with the added burden. "Essential infrastructure is lacking, key equipment and support services are either missing, inadequate or not functioning, medical supplies are insufficient and monitoring and surveillance systems are close to failure," said WHO.

Health workers were also experiencing the effects of the HIV epidemic in their own ranks, with staff absenteeism and high vacancy rates placing an additional strain on healthcare delivery.

Moreover, the capacity of skilled staff to deal with the increasing health problems remained very low across all the affected countries.

WHO called for "massive resources and urgent action" to deal with the situation.


HIV/AIDS remains a big child killer,  8/Oct/04
HIV/AIDS changing the face of agriculture,  26/Aug/04
Female-headed households most vulnerable to food insecurity,  28/Jul/04
Households burdened by an increasing number of AIDS orphans,  13/Jul/04
Responding to the challenge of "feminisation" of AIDS,  7/Jul/04
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


PlusNews is produced under the banner of RHAIN, the Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Information Network. RHAIN's members currently include:

  • IRIN
  • Inter Press Service (IPS)
  • Health Systems Trust
  • Health & Development Networks
  • GTZ/Afronets

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