The World Health Organization (WHO) in a recent news release has said that more than half a billion people globally are being pushed into extreme poverty due to the fact that they pay for health costs out of their own pockets. This is based on new evidence compiled by the health organization and the World Bank. Findings revealed that there is a possibility that the Covid-19 pandemic will bring to a halt decades of global progress towards Universal Health Coverage.

The pandemic disrupted health services, stretching countries’ health systems beyond their limits while also triggering the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, making it even more difficult for people to pay for healthcare, the statement said.

What the DG of WHO is saying

The WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “All governments must immediately resume and accelerate efforts to ensure every one of their citizens can access health services without fear of the financial consequences.” Tedros advised governments to direct efforts towards strengthening public spending on health and social support, and also increasing focus on primary health care systems that can provide essential care close to home.

He added saying, “Prior to the pandemic, many countries had made progress. But it was not robust enough. This time we must build health systems that are strong enough to withstand shocks, such as the next pandemic and stay on course towards universal health coverage. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, almost 1 billion people were spending more than 10 per cent of their household budget on health. Within a constrained fiscal space, governments will have to make tough choices to protect and increase health budgets,” said Juan Pablo Uribe, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank.”

The WHO/World Bank further warns that financial hardship is likely to become more intense as poverty grows, incomes fall, and governments face tighter fiscal constraints.

What you should know

The World Bank is supporting over 60 low-and-middle income countries, the majority of which are in Africa with the purchase and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, and is making available $20 billion in financing for this purpose until the end of 2022, according to the release.

In October 2021, Nigeria received approval from World Bank for a $400 million credit for Covid-19 vaccine acquisition. The World Bank said the fund is meant to provide upfront financing for safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine acquisition and deployment within the country and that it would be implemented as part of the COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Project.

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