A consortium of donors, investors and philanthropies have launched a 3.29 billion shillings (30 million U.S. dollars) emergency loan facility to help five African countries cushion their private healthcare providers from the financial crunch linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Open Doors African Private Healthcare Initiative aims to boost the capacity of private healthcare facilities in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda to provide essential services amid pandemics' disruptions.
"With COVID-19 putting tremendous financial pressure on health budgets across Africa, we need creative solutions to help governments achieve their ambitious health goals," Ray Chambers, WHO Ambassador for Global Strategy and Health Financing, said in a statement.
Chambers said that access to emergency loans will help Africa's private healthcare providers complement the government's led war against malaria and other infectious diseases.
Nearly 50 percent of essential healthcare services in Sub-Saharan Africa that include malaria diagnosis and treatment, antenatal care and routine immunizations are provided by private hospitals and clinics.
These private health facilities experienced a slump in their revenues at the peak of COVID-19 amid lockdowns that discouraged citizens from seeking treatment for common ailments.
Kennedy Okong'o, Director for East Africa at Medical Credit Fund said the loan facility will enable private healthcare facilities to stay afloat despite revenue losses triggered by the pandemic.
"Many of our clients are under increased pressure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and see patient visits and revenue decrease," said Okong'o.
"This agreement helps us to further support health entrepreneurs, so they can continue providing the services needed to keep communities healthy," he added.
More than five million patients, including three million low-income ones who are at higher risk of contracting malaria and other infectious diseases, will benefit from the loan facility for Africa's private healthcare providers.
The loan facility to be managed by international health advocacy group, Malaria No More will help private health facilities stabilize their operations and buy essential medical equipment.
"This facility is one of the first solutions of its kind to address the twin health and economic crises facing the private health sector in Africa due to COVID-19," said Martin Edlund, CEO, Malaria No More.
"We hope it will spark a broader response using creative financial solutions to save lives from malaria and address Africa's most urgent health needs," he added.