Inflated health care costs have forced over half billion people into poverty amid pandemic

WION Web Team
New Delhi Updated: Dec 13, 2021, 08:02 AM(IST)

Inflated health care costs have pushed over half billion people into poverty. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Launched on Universal Health Coverage Day, the report further highlights how the pandemic has also triggered the worst economic crisis since the 1930s

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has had a series of consequences for the entire world, one of them being, extreme poverty. New research compiled by the World Health Organisation and the World Bank shows how this pandemic is going to put a pause on two decades of global progress towards Universal Health Coverage. Both the organisations have further revealed that the pandemic has pushed over half a billion people into extreme poverty. This is because they have to spend hefty amounts on health services.

Launched on Universal Health Coverage Day, the report further highlights how the pandemic has also triggered the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said, “There is no time to spare."

“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. This means strengthening public spending on health and social support, and increasing their focus on primary health care systems that can provide essential care close to home.”

The report further talks about how in 2020, the pandemic completely disrupted health services. As a result of this, immunisation coverage dropped for the first time in ten years. 

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There was also a surge in deaths from TB and malaria.

“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," says Tedros in an official press release by WHO. 

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, 68 per cent of the world’s population was covered by essential health services - treatment for diseases like HIV, TB and malaria, services to diagnose and treat noncommunicable diseases including cancer, heart conditions, and diabetes. However, there was no progress made in ensuring affordability. 

This is why people living in the poorest areas are the last ones to obtain health care services. 

Juan Pablo Uribe, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank, in an official release by WHO said, "Even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, almost 1 billion people were spending more than 10 per cent of their household budget on health."

He further highlighted how this is completely unacceptable. He said, "This is not acceptable, especially since the poorest people are hit hardest. Within a constrained fiscal space, governments will have to make tough choices to protect and increase health budgets." 

(With inputs from agencies)

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