Healthcare and WASH versus COVID-19 outbreak in Africa






Attached a short JRC report on "Health Care and Water and Sanitation services vs COVID-19 in Africa". The document presents the strong relationship between the quality of healthcare and WASH services and deaths due to low respiratory infections (related to COVID-19) and how, based on the analysis of 17 years of data on the quality of these services, African countries are at risk from the pandemic. 

Key points

  • Since 2000, the vulnerability of the overall African continent to respiratory diseases decreased. However, infections and concretely lower respiratory infections remain high and account for 10.4% of total deaths, reaching up to 916,851 deaths in 2016 across the continent. In the context of COVID-19, these are important factors to consider.

  • Disparities exist across the continent: 55% of countries (Class C-2016) are considered the most vulnerable to mortality due to lower respiratory diseases because they show the lowest life expectancy, weakest healthcare system and limited Water Access, Sanitation and Health (WASH) services, highest mortality rates and lowest rates of urbanization and migration remittance inflow.

  • Official Development Assistance (ODA) does not appear to be associated with reduced vulnerability to respiratory or infectious diseases at the country level, but its potential positive impact can be observed on a smaller scale (to be further studied).

  • Remittance inflows coming from national diaspora appears positively associated to lower mortality and better access to WASH services.

  • Additional efforts to increase access to water, sanitation and handwashing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, could also impact other prevalent diseases that contribute to high rates of mortality in Africa, such as diarrhoea (7.4%), malaria (4.6%) and tuberculosis (4.6%), which accounted for as many as 2,383,263 deaths (27% of total deaths) in 2016 (WHO, 2018).


[1]WHO (2018). Global Health Estimates 2016: Disease burden by Cause, Age, Sex, by Country and by Region, 2000-2016. Geneva, World Health Organization; 2018.

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