The Effect of COVID-19 on Developing Countries
August 6, 2020
The Jerusalem Post — How is the coronavirus emergency affecting low-income countries across the continents? A virtual panel organized by the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Medical School for International Health (MSIH) and BGU’s Center for Global Health offered firsthand testimonies from several nations, including Perù, Ghana, Ethiopia, India, and Nepal.
MSIH is a full four-year M.D. curriculum taught in English that incorporates global health elements. Among the opportunities offered to the students, is an eight-week-long global health clerkship in a developing country.
The virtual event featured medical professionals from several institutions where BGU students spend their clerkship, who shared their experiences and challenges.
“Even when we’re surrounded by death and destruction, we can make a difference,” Prof. A. Mark Clarfield, former MSIH director, says. “I think this conference is an example of this.”
Lack of coronavirus tests and challenges to impose lock downs due to dire economic conditions were indicated as especially problematic, with significant differences from country to country, but also from region to region.
“To soften the economic impact of the closures, the government gave cash bonds to the poorest population but this made the situation worse with increased transmission,” explains Dr. Graciela Meza, associate professor at the Medicine Faculty of National University of the Peruvian Amazon at the Regional Health Directorate of Loreto, Perù, one of the countries most affected by the virus.
While the mortality rate per 100,000 people in the world due to COVID-19 stands at 8.86 and in Israel at 5.69, in Perù it has reached 142.79 and in Iquitos, the regional capital of Loreto, 182.37.
The number of cases and especially of deaths in Ghana and Ethiopia has remained relatively small, despite the limited amount of testing which might not allow for an accurate picture, local experts reported during the event.
India so far has registered 1.9 million cases of coronavirus and some 36,000 deaths.
“In Nepal there was a timely lock down,” said Dr. Gyan Kayastha, associate professor at the Patan Academy of Health Sciences in Kathmandu. “The main problem was caused by the huge influx of people from abroad and across the border. In addition, there was a lack of laboratories, testing and screening facilities, as well as of hospital beds and ICU ventilators.”
Since the first cases were registered at the end of February, Kayastha pointed out that the health system has gotten more organized, increasing both testing capabilities and hospital beds.