n African Journal of Reproductive Health - In Support of Community-based Primary Health Care : coping with the COVID-19 Crisis

Volume 24, Issue Special-Edition1
  • ISSN : 1118-4841
  • E-ISSN: 2141-3606



What impact will the Covid 19 pandemic have on reproductive health care in Africa and how should the health system ready itself? As primary health care clinicians and research collaborators in maternal health, we have some observations based on our experiences. While our clinical work is done in two very different settings: a rural Tanzanian district hospital (Chirangi) and an urban Canadian city (Webber), we have noted some commonalities in the response to the pandemic. Covid 19 has made people very afraid. The media images of over-run Italian hospitals with insufficient ventilators for very ill patients and exhausted staff has permeated all of our borders. People are avoiding getting health care, because they know that they are at risk of contracting this virus, with no cure or vaccine to help them. As a result, instead of being overwhelmed with sick patients, Canadian hospital emergency rooms are in fact quieter than usual. Elective surgeries have been postponed, and staff are being re-deployed. Our social distancing policies have appeared to flatten the epidemic curve in the general community (though unfortunately, not in longterm homes). Similarly, in rural Tanzania, people are avoiding getting health care services until they are very sick. Fear of leaving home to go to the more populated town, where there may be a greater risk of infection, is strong. We know from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa that women's health suffered because either the health system was overwhelmed with Ebola patients, or the population believed they would be at risk of acquiring the virus when attending a health facility1. The outcome was the same - limited access to needed health care services and declines in maternal health. How can a primary health care system ensure that the population continues to have sound

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