Almost 30 countries are highly vulnerable to an Ebola-style epidemic jeopardising the future of millions of children, warns Save the Children in its new report A Wake Up Call: lessons from Ebola for the world’s health systems.
The report ranks the world’s poorest countries on the state of their health systems, finding that 28 have an even weaker defence in place than Liberia where, alongside Sierra Leone and Guinea, the current Ebola crisis has already claimed 9,000 lives and provoked an extraordinary international response to contain it.
The charity warns that a mobile population increases the threat of infectious disease outbreaks and, added to the emergence of two new zoonotic diseases each year, it is crucial to invest in stronger health systems to avoid a disease spreading faster and further than the current Ebola outbreak.
It also says prevention is better than cure, finding that the international Ebola relief effort in West Africa has cost £2.8bn whereas strengthening the health systems of those countries in the first place would have cost £1.05bn.
Ahead of an Ebola summit attended by world leaders in Brussels today, the charity warns that alongside immediate much needed support to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, lessons need to be learnt and applied to other vulnerable countries around the world.
Justin Forsyth, Save the Children’s CEO, said: “A robust health system could have stopped Ebola in its tracks saving thousands of children’s lives and billions of pounds.
“Without trained heath workers and a functioning health system in place, it’s more likely that an epidemic could spread across international borders with catastrophic effects.
“The world woke up to Ebola but now people need to wake up to the scandal of weak health systems. They not only risk new diseases spreading but also contribute to the deaths of 17,000 children each day from preventable causes like pneumonia and malaria.”
The report’s Health Access Index looks at the density of health workers, government spending on health, and mortality rates. Somalia comes last preceded by Chad, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Haiti, Ethiopia, Central Africa Republic, Guinea, Niger and then Mali.
Read more at: Save the Children website, March 2, 2015