Côte d’Ivoire health care has faced challenges in recent years and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a 2020 Helen Keller International report, Moriame Sidibé, a mom and homemaker from northern Côte d’Ivoire was a “Vitamin A Hero” because every six months for the past three years she spent three full days walking door to door and village to village to give young children Vitamin A and deworming pills. Sidibé faced challenges because sometimes she needed to convince mothers of the importance and safety of the pills, coax the children to swallow the pills and mark the children’s fingers with black ink so she would not accidentally give them a second pill.
Sidibé left her own four young children to do this, but it was worth it to her because she has training as a community health volunteer who is part of a collaboration between the Ivorian government, Helen Keller International, the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Nutritional International fighting the extreme form of malnutrition in children called micronutrient deficiency or “hidden hunger.”
Twenty-five percent of Ivorian children get enough calories, but not foods with sufficient Vitamin A, zinc, iodine or iron. That “hidden hunger” puts one in four Ivorian children at risk of blindness, impaired brain development and some fatal infections. Deworming pills kill the parasites that prevent children from absorbing micronutrients including Vitamin A, and together the deworming pills and the Vitamin A can save children’s lives. In December 2019, the campaign reached 5 million children or 98% of all Ivorian children, an incredible accomplishment of a ministry of health working with international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and trained community health volunteers.
Côte d’Ivoire, the West African nation of 25 million, enjoyed a strong 8% average GDP growth between 2011 and 2018. According to the World Bank, the country had one of the strongest economies in sub-Saharan Africa due to an expanded middle class that supported demand in industry, agriculture and services. The Côte d’Ivoire health care indicators, however, lagged behind other less-developed nations, and in 2018, Côte d’Ivoire ranked 165 of 189 countries on the U.N. Human Development Index.
As noted in a 2020 Oxford Business Group report, planned increases in health care spending should improve these indicators. Côte d’Ivoire spent $1.8 billion on health care in 2016, $2 billion in 2019 and intends to spend $2.3 billion in 2021. The country invested in access to services, renovation and building of medical facilities, and development of technical platforms aligned with international health standards. The Ivorian government worked with a number of programs like the Helen Keller International Vitamin A Heroes; however, then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Despite COVID, Côte d’Ivoire Health Care Initiatives Regroup to Persevere
Based on the World Health Organization COVID-19 transmission guidance, the Vitamin A Heroes collaboration discontinued its door-to-door campaign. Nevertheless, during the pandemic, the campaign has resolutely distributed Vitamin A and deworming pills at local health clinics when children come with their families for other reasons. Once the pandemic subsides, it will renew its crucial Vitamin A Heroes campaign.
Predicted to Rebound Post COVID and Target Health Care
Côte d’Ivoire’s pre-COVID targeted investment in health care services, facilities and technical innovation gives Côte d’Ivoire health care a positive outlook according to the Oxford Business Group report. The International Monetary Fund predicts that Côte d’Ivoire’s GDP growth will climb back up to 8.7% in 2021 as the new investment in Côte d’Ivoire health care parallels the successful investment in other sectors.
Moving Forward, Côte d’Ivoire to Roll Out Planned Health Care Initiatives
One example of a Côte d’Ivoire health care collaboration of governmental, NGO and local organizations that launched during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 is Harness the Power of Partnerships. Harness the Power of Partnerships is a Côte d’Ivoire health care initiative to use faith-based organizations in the HIV response. Faith-based leadership is working with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) on long-term strategies to reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS and to keep Ivorians on their antiretroviral therapies. This PEPFAR/UNAIDS program exemplifies how the Ivorian government continues to partner with non-government groups, including local groups, in order to improve Côte d’Ivoire health care indicators.
Improving Côte d’Ivoire health care will not be an easy task, but creating collaborations with international powerhouses like PEPFAR, UNAIDS, Helen Keller International and local nonprofits and community leaders is definitely a strategy worth watching as COVID-19 subsides and the Ivorian economy rebounds.
– Shelly Saltzman
Photo: Wikipedia Commons