Despite COVID-19: The pandemic’s impact on global health in 2021

COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on global health. Early on, the pandemic brought many health systems to their knees, and it continues to expose and exacerbate inequities that already existed between countries, people, and access to basic health services.

Indeed, headlines over the past year have warned that the pandemic has increased stillbirths and maternal deaths in low-resource settings; threatened to undo years of progress in the fight against tuberculosis; and may cause global human development—a combination of education, health, and living standards tracked by the United Nations Development Programme—to fall for the first time since 1990.

As we looked through our case studies, blog posts, and other materials in preparation for our usual end-of-year roundup, we saw this impact reflected back at us. However, we also saw a phrase, repeatedly, that told a more hopeful story: “Despite COVID-19…”

As we revisit several of our most popular pieces of content from 2021, we focus not only on the challenges the pandemic has caused health programs across our partner countries, but also the resilience that our partners have shown in their response.

Cover of the 2021 HIV Market Report

2021 HIV Market Report: The state of the HIV market in low- and middle-income countries

In a year defined by COVID-19, the global HIV response fell short of UNAIDS goals, but demonstrated incredible resilience by adapting to service interruptions and expanding access to HIV treatment, prevention, and diagnostics. A new global strategy to get the world back on track to ending HIV as a public health threat was also introduced. Read more.

Community health worker sustains continuity of essential services despite COVID-19 restrictions and community fears

For every thousand children born in Zambia, 61 will die before their fifth birthday—almost twice the global rate. The leading causes of death are treatable with simple and affordable routine vaccinations, adequate nutrition, and safe drinking water. However, access to these lifesaving interventions is often limited.

So when Angela, a community health assistant in Central province, noticed a sharp decrease in the number children being brought to her health facility for vaccinations and nutrition checks, she knew she had to act.  Angela decided that if families were uncomfortable coming to her because of COVID-19 risks, she would have to find them a safe space. Read more.

‘When women thrive, the world thrives’: Reflections on World Population Day

Despite significant progress in making family planning services more affordable and accessible to those who need it most, lack of access to quality sexual and reproductive health information and services continues to be an issue for millions of people.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation more difficult, impacting health systems around the world. This includes family planning services, which in 2020, declined across CHAI’s partner countries as lockdowns and other measures to limit spread of the disease also reduced clients’ ability to access reproductive health services. Read more.

Three delivery room nurses stand arm in arm outside a clinic. The woman in the middle wears a white uniform and the women on either side of her wear pink. All are smiling.

There is a global shortage of nurses. COVID-19 is making it worse

Frontline health workers around the world have shouldered the tremendous burden of treating a global pandemic while continuing to provide essential health services. Nurses, who make up 59 percent of the world’s health workforce, have had to cope with non-stop overtime and are burning out at dramatic rates. Even before the pandemic, burnout rates for nurses in sub-Saharan Africa were estimated between 51 and 87 percent. The situation has been exacerbated by a problem that existed well before the pandemic: a frightening shortage of health workers. Read more.

Investing In Oxygen virtual discussion promotional card which includes the title of the talk and photos of the moderator and panelists. The graphic is dark blue and soft yellow.

Webinar: Investing in oxygen to close the access gap during COVID-19 and beyond

Every patient who needs oxygen should receive it, no matter where they are born. CHAI and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), together with governments and other global health partners, want to relegate deaths to lack of oxygen to history.

Earlier this year, we co-hosted a conversation with a panel of respected international health experts and moderator President Bill Clinton to discuss the importance of oxygen in saving lives, how the pandemic is widening gaps in access, and steps to ensure oxygen is sustainably available in low- and middle-income countries. Watch the webinar.

Despite COVID-19 hurdles, cervical cancer screening and treatment programs continue to grow

In 2019, CHAI launched our cervical cancer program with support from Unitaid. We partnered with governments in seven countries—India, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Zambia. Our object was to scale up safe, effective, and affordable pre-cancer screening and treatment technologies and assist partner governments in achieving global cervical cancer elimination targets. In 2020, we planned to build on the start we had made. Then, the pandemic hit. Read more.