The Gambia is a growing country with high income inequality and high poverty rates. The poverty rate in rural communities is 70%, while in urban communities it is only 32%. These high poverty rates negatively impact access to healthcare, making healthcare in The Gambia a significant concern. Without access, many people in The Gambia face communicable diseases without the ability to receive proper treatment. This lack of access to healthcare and the impact of communicable diseases have been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of COVID-19. However, organizations are stepping in to help The Gambia improve its healthcare system. Here are five facts about healthcare in The Gambia during COVID-19.
5 Facts About Healthcare in The Gambia During COVID-19
- The Gambia announced its first COVID-19 case on Mar. 17. The government responded by preparing the people for travel restrictions, closing schools and suspending public gatherings. The Ministry of Health began providing resources via social media. On Facebook, the number of cases is updated every day. It provides information on how to wear a mask, social distancing and how to reach the coronavirus hotline.
- The Gambia received outside support. This happened on Mar. 28, a little more than a week after announcing its first case. The Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations in China stepped in to help not only The Gambia, but 54 countries in Africa. The foundations donated 20, 000 test kits, 1000, 000 masks, 740 sets of protective clothing and 1000 sets of protective shields.
- COVID-19 could exacerbate the situation for those already living in, or close to, poverty. About 48.6% of The Gambia’s population lives below the poverty line. This means that many people are vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19, specifically economically. At the same time, it could also cause people who have made economic advances to move back into poverty. Since poverty negatively impacts access to healthcare, this could mean more of The Gambia’s population is unable to receive the treatment they need.
- The World Bank is stepping in. Since the pandemic started, The World Bank has been sending funding to provide support for many countries in need. The bank’s funding in The Gambia will enhance COVID-19 case detection and tracking. It will also improve treatment centers and strengthen disease surveillance and diagnostic capacity.
- The government has been working to improve healthcare. The Gambia National Health Sector Strategic Plan 2014-2020 (NHSSP) guides healthcare in the nation. The plan’s goal is to reduce inequalities in health care services and reverse the downward trend in health-related outcome indicators. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) conducts annual reviews of the plan to see where improvements still need to be made. The NHSSP is still in effect during COVID-19; however, it will wrap up at the end of 2020. Moving forward, a new plan is needed to ensure a continued focus on improving access to healthcare in The Gambia.
COVID-19 has exacerbated existing problems with healthcare in The Gambia by making those in poverty, or who have just escaped it, more vulnerable. As a result, many organizations have stepped in to help The Gambia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward, these organizations as well as the government must continue to make improving healthcare a priority.
– Melody Kazel