Africa bears a heavy disease burden
In countries like Canada disease burdens – how health problems affect a country economically and socially – are measured in terms of disability instead of premature mortality due to communicable diseases, such as malaria or tuberculosis. This stands in sharp contrast to Sub-Saharan African countries, including Ethiopia, Malawi and Tanzania, where communicable, maternal, nutritional, and newborn diseases continue to dominate. While cost effective interventions that can prevent the disease burden exist, coverage is too low due to health systems weaknesses and the health of too many people in the region remains at risk.
Every day, families, communities and health systems deal with the strain of disease, accidents and epidemics. All of this is aggravated by poverty, inequity, climate change, global fin ancial crises and internal strife, putting further strain on health systems that are already weak.
Among the systemic weaknesses preventing effective care is the acute shortage of health workers and their high drop out rate from the health system. In Tanzania, for example, up to 30 percent of health workers leave the system within a year after training. The ones who remain, too often lack hands on practical trainings and access to continuing medical education. Health facilities and hospitals, especially in rural areas, are thus left without enough skilled workers.
CPAR’s projects are working to increase skills and knowledge among health workers at both the community and hospital levels. As part of our Physicians Partnering project, for example, Ethiopian nurses, doctors and other health care professionals are exchanging knowledge with experienced Canadian volunteer physicians. And our work in rural communities in Malawi is ensuring the community health workers – often the fi rst point of contact for health information in remote areas – are well equipped with the knowledge and practices necessary to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. As Africa’s health systems struggle to meet basic standards of care, CPAR is committed to delivering comprehensive projects to help overcome systemic barriers to its delivery. It is our belief that health is both a prerequisite to and an outcome of truly sustainable development.