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Angola's health service cripples due to shortage

Okanautoni is remote but the provincial director for health says clinics without drugs are no exception.


Angola's health service cripples due to shortage
The country failed to develop a robust system for buying and distributing medicines, or training doctors and nurses. (Image Credit: Wikimedia)

Apart from a few packs of medicine and plastic jars, the shelves at the Okanautoni health centre in southern Angola are bare and lack basic drugs for saving lives.

Hours from the nearest town in Cunene province, the clinic has no first-line tuberculosis drugs, no antiretrovirals for HIV, no general antibiotics and just three anti-malarial pills.

Okanautoni is remote but the provincial director for health says clinics without drugs are no exception. "The public health system is losing credibility," said Mendes Esteves at his office in the sleepy provincial capital Ondjiva.

João Lourenço, Angola's first new president in 38 years, has vowed to tackle corruption, attract foreign investment and improve public services such as healthcare, which the government acknowledges suffers from a lack of doctors and medication.

Crippled by 27 years of civil war, health care improved after the conflict ended in 2002 as the oil-fuelled economy surged and new hospitals and clinics were built. But experts say the country failed to develop a robust system for buying and distributing medicines, or training doctors and nurses.

When the price of oil tumbled in 2014, the economy stalled and the government slashed spending, exposing cracks in the public health service and leaving the population at risk.

Diseases that should be disappearing after more than 15 years of peace are spreading. Tuberculosis has been declining worldwide but in Angola, the incidence of TB rose 16 percent from 2002 to 2016, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Angola suffered the world's worst yellow fever epidemic in a generation in 2016 with about 4,000 suspected cases and 380 deaths, and the country is now in the grip of a malaria outbreak with more than 300,000 cases so far this year.

International health workers say the country is leaving itself open to further outbreaks, with some warning of cholera spreading from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and others of a potentially devastating epidemic like Ebola - a strain of which struck Angola in 2005.

In 2018, the government committed 4 percent of government expenditure to health, down from 4.3 percent in 2017. By comparison, South Africa spent about 14 percent on health in 2015 and Kenya 6 percent, according to WHO data.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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