Even though South Asian countries were initially thought to be safe from the blows of Covid-19, the current scenario paints a different picture. In the wake of the pandemic, South Asian countries (the ones with mounting cases) are floundering in giving treatment to their patients.
Beyond South Asia, the countries with healthcare systems already in a poor, battered state before the pandemic now await a cruel fate. Yemen is one such example, a country ravaged by air-raids, conflicts, and military operations. Since 2015, many Yemenis have been denied some basic rights like healthcare and hygiene due to war. And now, that pre-existing condition, coupled with the pandemic, is likely to deal a double blow against Yemenis. Yemen is suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. On top of that, the vulnerability of medics, collapsing health system, absence of a central government, and the rising grip of Houthi rebels over vast areas contribute to roughening up efforts to contain the virus.
Across Africa, the effects of a historical lack of political will to ensure proper investment in health systems and health-related industries are being laid bare by COVID-19. For instance, Nigeria only invested less than 4% of its annual budget to healthcare despite the pledge made to increase its annual health budget to 15% during the Abuja declaration in 2001. Limited funding allocated to the health sectors has led to the existence of understaffed and under-equipped public medical centers. There are about five-hundred ventilators per 400,000 persons and 350 ICU beds per 571,429 persons in the 23,640 public and private hospitals.
On the 17th of March, as coronavirus cases were rising, doctors in Abuja, the federal capital territory, reportedly went on strike due to the delay in salary and unsafe working conditions. The same trend has been pervasive in many African countries' healthcare systems, such as Kenya, Uganda, Niger, Sierra Leone, among others. Another major weakness in sub-Saharan African health systems is inadequate human resources. Africa is said to have less than one health worker per 1000 population compared to 10 per 1000 in Europe.
There has been a shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) for health workers. The doctors are also facing heavy additional workloads as the cases surge, leaving them vulnerable to infection. Lack of transparency and political integrity remain the enduring constraints in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic in major African countries. For instance, in some states in Nigeria, many of the funds dedicated to healthcare emergency aid were being looted. According to Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International, "the regulations of the money lobby needed an urgent address in order to tackle the pandemic in Africa.”
Besides Nigeria, cases of corruption in the wake of the pandemic have also been reported in Bangladesh. Recently, a man was arrested for selling fake negative certificates.