Access to care solutions in healthcare for obstetric care in Africa: A systematic review

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) systems exist to reduce death and disability from life-threatening medical emergencies. Less than 9% of the African population is serviced by an emergency medical services transportation system, and nearly two-thirds of African countries do not have any known EMS system in place. One of the leading reasons for EMS utilization in Africa is for obstetric emergencies. The purpose of this systematic review is to provide a qualitative description and summation of previously described interventions to improve access to care for patients with maternal obstetric emergencies in Africa with the intent of identifying interventions that can innovatively be translated to a broader emergency context.

The protocol was registered in the PROSPERO database (International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews) under the number CRD42018105371. We searched the following electronic databases for all abstracts up to 10/19/2020 in accordance to PRISMA guidelines: PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Scopus and African Index Medicus. Articles were included if they were focused on a specific mode of transportation or an access-to-care solution for hospital or outpatient clinic care in Africa for maternal or traumatic emergency conditions. Exclusion criteria included in-hospital solutions intended to address a lack of access. Reference and citation analyses were performed, and a data quality assessment was conducted. Data analysis was performed using a qualitative metasynthesis approach.

A total of 6,457 references were imported for screening and 1,757 duplicates were removed. Of the 4,700 studies that were screened against title and abstract, 4,485 studies were excluded. Finally, 215 studies were assessed for full-text eligibility and 152 studies were excluded. A final count of 63 studies were included in the systematic review. In the 63 studies that were included, there was representation from 20 countries in Africa. The three most common interventions included specific transportation solutions (n = 39), community engagement (n = 28) and education or training initiatives (n = 27). Over half of the studies included more than one category of intervention.

Emergency care systems across Africa are understudied and interventions to improve access to care for obstetric emergencies provides important insight into existing solutions for other types of emergency conditions. Physical access to means of transportation, efforts to increase layperson knowledge and recognition of emergent conditions, and community engagement hold the most promise for future efforts at improving emergency access to care.

The role of health service delivery networks in achieving universal health coverage in Africa

Most countries in Africa are faced with health system problems that vary from one to the next. Countries with a low Human Development Index (HDI) seem to be more prone to challenges in health service delivery. To mark its 70th anniversary on World Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) selected the theme “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Everyone, Everywhere” and the slogan “Health for All. ”UHC refers to ensuring that all people have access to needed health services (including prevention, promotion, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliation) of sufficient quality to be effective while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship. UHC is a WHO’s priority objective. Most governments have made it their major goal.

This paper provides a perspective on the challenges of achieving UHC in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It also endeavors to spotlight the successful models of Health Service Delivery Networks (HSDNs) that make significant strides in making progress towards achieving UHC. HSDNs propose models that facilitate the attainment of affordability and accessibility while maintaining quality in delivering health services. Additionally, it brings up to speed the challenges associated with setting up HSDNs in health systems in SSA. It then makes propositions of what measures and strategic approaches should be implemented to strengthen HSDNs in SSA. This paper further argues that UHC is not only technically feasible but it is also attainable if countries embrace HSDNs in SSA.

Neurosurgery in Sub-Saharan Africa – Historical Background and Development of Training Programs in East Africa.

Modern Neurosurgery in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has its roots in the 1960s when Neurosurgeons from Europe set up Units in West Africa and East Africa. While it would be unfair to give credit to some individuals, and inadvertently not naming others, Prof Abdeslam El Khamlichi (1) in his book, “Emerging Neurosurgery in Africa,” quoting Professor Adelola Adeloye (2), provided a valuable account: A French Neurosurgeon, Dr. Courson, set up the first neurosurgical unit in West Africa in Senegal in 1967. He was joined by two other French neurosurgeons, Dr. Claude Cournil and Dr. Alliez, in 1972 and 1975. They trained the first Senegalese Neurosurgeon, Dr. Mamadou Gueye, who joined as a trainee in 1977. Dr. Gueye was to become the first Senegalese Professor and Chairman of the Neurosurgery Department.


In Ivory Coast, the first unit was set up by Dr. Claude Cournil in Abidjan in 1976, having left Dakar. He joined the first Ivorian Neurosurgeon, Dr. Kanga, who set up practice in 1974 in Abidjan. In Ghana, the first Neurosurgical Unit was set up by Ghanaian Neurosurgeon Dr. Osman Mustaffah in 1969. In Nigeria, the first units were set up by Nigerian Neurosurgeon Dr. Latunde Odeku started the service in Ibadan in 1962. He was joined by two other pioneer neurosurgeons, Dr. Adelola Adeloye in 1967 and Dr. Adebayo Ajayi Olumide in 1974. A second department was set up in Lagos by Dr. de Silva and Dr. Nosiru Ojikutu; in 1968, Dr. Samuel C. Ohaegbulam started the third service in Enugu in 1974 (2). In East Africa, Neurosurgical procedures had been carried out by Dr. Peter Clifford, an ENT surgeon, in 1955 (3).
In Kenya, modern Neurosurgery was introduced by Dr. Renato Ruberti, an Italian Neurosurgeon from Napoli, who set up Private practice in the European hospital in Nairobi in 1967 part-time at the King George V Hospital, which served as the National Hospital. He was joined in 1972 by Dr. Jawahar Dar, from New Delhi. The Indian Dr. Jawahar Dar set up the First Neurosurgery Unit at the King George V hospital, renamed Kenyatta National Hospital while teaching at the University of Nairobi. They were joined by Dr. Gerishom Sande, the first Kenyan Neurosurgeon following his training in Belfast, in 1979 (3).
In Uganda, on advice and recommendation of the renowned British Neurosurgeon, Professor Valentine Logue of the Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, London, was invited by the government in 1968 to advise the establishment of neurosurgery at Mulago Hospital, Dr. Ian Bailey moved to Uganda. He was instrumental in establishing the first neurosurgical unit in Uganda at Mulago Hospital in 1969, equipped with 54 beds for the department of neurosurgery and cardiothoracic surgery (4). He was joined by the first Ugandan Neurosurgeon, Dr. Jovan Kiryabirwe, in 1971, who became the first indigenous Ugandan Neurosurgeon and the first African Neurosurgeon in East and Central Africa. He attended medical school at Makerere University School of Medicine in Kampala and subsequently completed postgraduate training at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Scotland; he also trained at Queens Square with Professor Logue (5).
In Tanzania, the first step towards modern neurosurgery was the establishment of orthopedic and trauma services in 1971 at the
Muhimbili Medical Center (MMC) by Professor Philemon Sarangi (6). At the time, orthopedic surgeons treated most of the cranial and spinal trauma. Over the next few years, several foreign neurosurgeons from Cuba, China, and the Soviet Union spent short stints practicing neurosurgery at MMC. Dr. Reulen, Professor and Chairman of Neurosurgery at University Hospital in Inselspital, Bern, Switzerland, and later in Munich, Germany, provided the impetus for the establishment of a neurosurgery program at MMC teaching in hospital of the University of Dar-es-Salaam and creating a “sandwich” program with training split between national and international centers. He trained Dr. Simpert Kinunda, a plastic surgeon who later became the first Tanzanian with any neurosurgical training.
Peter Kadyanji was the first fully trained Tanzanian neurosurgeon, and he joined MMC in 1985 after completing his training in the Soviet Union. Yadon M. Kohi followed in Kadyanji’s footsteps, graduating from Makerere University and the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Dar-es-Salaam. He obtained his FRCS in Ireland and Glasgow and later was appointed as the General Director of the National Commission for Science and Technology. Dr. Mlay was the third neurosurgeon to join MMC in 1989, with a specialty in pediatric neurosurgery. Professor Sarungi was essential to establish the Muhimbili Orthopedic Institute (MOI), which was opened in 1993 and later combined with MMC to become Muhimbili National Hospital, the national institute of neurosurgery, orthopedics, and traumatology.
Several neurosurgeons have practiced at MOI since its founding, including Dr. Abednego Kinasha and Dr. Joseph Kahamba. They, along with Professor Laurence Museru, the Medical Director of MOI, played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for training the current generation of neurosurgeons in Tanzania (6). Contemporary, locally trained neurosurgeons form the core of the specialized expertise in the country. They provide neurosurgical training and care at MOI at several healthcare institutions around the country. There are currently 20 neurosurgeons in the country, 18 of whom are in public service, one at a Mission hospital in Moshi, one in a private hospital (the Aga Khan University Hospital) Dar-es-salaam, and one at the Mnazi Mmoja/NED Institute in Zanzibar. No dedicated neuroscience nurses or beds are available in the country; however, currently, there are eight neurosurgical intensive care unit beds at MOI. An additional 14 at the new hospital within the Muhimbili hospital complex in Dar-es-Salaam opened in 2018. There are 5 CT scanners and 3 MRI scanners available across the country, mainly in Dar-es-Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania.
In Zimbabwe, Dr. Lawrence Frazer Levy, a British neurosurgeon, started in 1956 (Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia). He set up the Neurosurgery Department at the Central Hospital in Harare (Salisbury), becoming its first Professor and Chairman in 1971. He was joined by a young Scottish neurosurgeon, Dr. Carol Auchtertonie, responsible for starting the second unit at the European Hospital in Harare. The two served patients from Zimbabwe and neighboring Zambia, Malawi, and others for quite a long time (2). From these early beginnings, progress in neurosurgery remained slow, with only a handful of neurosurgeons available in SSA. In 1959, Professor Adelola Adeloye noted that there were only 20 neurosurgeons all across Africa, the majority practicing in South Africa (2). It is against this backdrop that the need to develop neurosurgical care in Sub-Saharan Africa came into focus.

eHealth for service delivery in conflict: a narrative review of the application of eHealth technologies in contemporary conflict settings

The role of eHealth in conflict settings is increasingly important to address geographic, epidemiologic and clinical disparities. This study categorizes various forms of eHealth usage in conflict and aims to identify gaps in evidence to make recommendations for further research and practice. The analysis was carried out via a narrative hermeneutic review methodology. Articles that fulfilled the following screening criteria were reviewed: (1) describing an eHealth intervention in active conflict or ongoing insurgency, (2) an eHealth intervention targeting a conflict-affected population, (3) an e-learning platform for delivery in conflict settings and (4) non-interventional descriptive reviews relating to eHealth in conflict. Of the 489 papers eligible for screening, 46 merited final inclusion. Conflict settings described include Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Chechnya, Gaza and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thirty-six studies described specific eHealth initiatives, while the remainder were more generic review papers exploring general principles. Analysis resulted in the elucidation of three final categories of current eHealth activity in conflict-affected settings: (1) eHealth for clinical management, (2) e-learning for healthcare in conflict and (3) eHealth for information management in conflict. Obvious disparities in the distribution of technological dividends from eHealth in conflict are demonstrated by this review. Conflict-affected populations are predominantly subject to ad hoc and voluntary initiatives delivered by diaspora and civil society organizations. While the deployment of eHealth technologies in conflict settings is increasingly normalized, there is a need for further clarification of global norms relating to practice in this context.

Health System Factors That Influence Treatment Delay in Women With Breast Cancer in Sub-saharan Africa: A Systematic Review

Breast cancer patients in sub-Saharan Africa experience long delays between their first presentation to a health care facility and the start of cancer treatment. The role of the health system in the increasing delay in treatment has not been widely investigated. This review aimed to identify existing information on health system factors that influence treatment delays in women with breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa to contribute to the reorientation of health policies in the region.
PubMed, ScienceDirect, African Journals Online, Mendeley, ResearchGate and Google Scholar were searched to identify relevant studies published between 2010 and July 2020. We performed a qualitative synthesis in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyse (PRISMA) statement. Related health system factors were extracted and classified according to the World Health Organization’s six health system building blocks. The quality of qualitative and quantitative studies was assessed by using the Critical Appraisal Skills Program quality-assessment tool and the National Institute of Health Quality Assessment Tool, respectively. In addition, we used the Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative Research tool to assess the evidence for each qualitative finding.
From 14,184 identified studies, this systematic review included 28 articles. We identified a total of 36 barriers and 8 facilitators that may influence treatment delay in women with breast cancer. The principal health system factors identified were mainly related to human resources and service delivery, particularly difficulty accessing health care, diagnostic errors, poor management, and treatment cost.
The present review shows that treatment delay among women with breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa is influenced by many related health system factors. Policymakers in sub-Saharan Africa need to tackle the financial accessibility to breast cancer treatment by adequate universal health coverage policies and reinforce the clinical competencies for health workers to ensure timely diagnosis and appropriate care for women with breast cancer in this region

Intimate partner violence against adolescent girls and young women and its association with miscarriages, stillbirths and induced abortions in sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence from demographic and health surveys

Intimate partner violence has been associated with numerous consequences for women, including pregnancy termination. This study aimed to examine the association between intimate partner violence and pregnancy termination among adolescent girls and young women in 25 sub-Saharan African countries. Data for this study was obtained from the demographic and health surveys of 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, published between 2010 and 2019. A total of 60,563 adolescent girls and young women were included in this study. Binary logistic regression models were used in analyzing the data and the results were presented as crude odds ratios (CORs) and adjusted odds ratios (AORs) at 95% confidence interval (CI). The prevalence of intimate partner violence and pregnancy termination among adolescent girls and young women in the 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa were 19% and 10.1% respectively. In all these countries, the odds of pregnancy termination was higher among adolescent girls and young women who had ever experienced intimate partner violence, compared to those who had never experienced intimate partner violence [COR = 1.60, 95% CI = 1.51–1.71], and this persisted after controlling for confounders [AOR = 1.58, 95% CI = 1.48–1.68]. However, across countries, intimate partner violence had significant association with pregnancy termination among adolescent girls and young women in Angola, Chad, Congo DR and Gabon (Central Africa); Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D’lvoire, Gambia and Mali (West Africa); Comoros, Rwanda and Uganda (East Africa); and Malawi and Zambia (Southern Africa). The findings imply that reducing pregnancy termination among adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa depends on the elimination of intimate partner violence. Thus, policies and programmes aimed at reducing pregnancy termination among adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa, should pay particular attention to those who have history of intimate partner violence.

Neglected tropical diseases activities in Africa in the COVID-19 era: the need for a “hybrid” approach in COVID-endemic times

With the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic showing no signs of abating, resuming neglected tropical disease (NTD) activities, particularly mass drug administration (MDA), is vital. Failure to resume activities will not only enhance the risk of NTD transmission, but will fail to leverage behaviour change messaging on the importance of hand and face washing and improved sanitation—a common strategy for several NTDs that also reduces the risk of COVID-19 spread. This so-called “hybrid approach” will demonstrate best practices for mitigating the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by incorporating physical distancing, use of masks, and frequent hand-washing in the delivery of medicines to endemic communities and support action against the transmission of the virus through water, sanitation and hygiene interventions promoted by NTD programmes. Unless MDA and morbidity management activities resume, achievement of NTD targets as projected in the WHO/NTD Roadmap (2021–2030) will be deferred, the aspirational goal of NTD programmes to enhance universal health coverage jeopardised and the call to ‘leave no one behind’ a hollow one. We outline what implementing this hybrid approach, which aims to strengthen health systems, and facilitate integration and cross-sector collaboration, can achieve based on work undertaken in several African countries.

Organ Donation and Transplantation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Opportunities and Challenges

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), occupying about 80% of the African continent is a heterogeneous region with estimated population of 1.1 billion people in 47 countries. Most belong to the low resource countries (LRCs). The high prevalence of end-organ diseases of kidney, liver, lung and heart makes provision of organ donation and transplantation necessary. Although kidney and heart transplantations were performed in South Africa in the 1960s, transplant activity in SSA lags behind the developed world. Peculiar challenges militating against successful development of transplant programmes include high cost of treatment, low GDP of most countries, inadequate infrastructural and institutional support, absence of subsidy, poor knowledge of the disease condition, poor accessibility to health-care facilities, religious and trado-cultural practices. Many people in the region patronize alternative healthcare as first choice. Opportunities that if harnessed may alter the unfavorable landscape are: implementation of the 2007 WHO Regional Consultation recommendations for establishment of national legal framework and self-sufficient organ donation/transplantation in each country and adoption of their 2020 proposed actions for organ/transplantation for member states, national registries with sharing of data with GODT, prevention of transplant commercialization and tourism. Additionally, adapting some aspects of proven successful models in LRCs will improve transplantation programmes in SSA.

Neonatal Septicaemia in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Protocol for Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Background: The morbidity and mortality from neonatal septicaemia (NNS) in low-middle income country remain high at the background of strained health care delivery system.The burden, pooled risks and outcomes of NNS are largely unknown. We aimed to produce a protocol for synthesizing evidence from available data for neonatal septicaemia in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: We developed a search strategy using MeSH, text words and entry terms. Nine databases will be searched: PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, AJOL, Google Scholar, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, Research gate and Scopus. Only Observational studies retrievable in the English Language will be included. The primary measurable outcome is the proportion of neonatal with septicaemia while secondary outcomes include proportion of bacterial isolates and their antibiogram, risk factors for NNS, in hospital mortality, length of hospital stay, frequency of necrotizing enterocolitis and other sequel . All identified studies will be screened based on the inclusion criteria. Data will be deduplicated in Endnote version 9, before exporting to Rayyan QCRI for screening. Extractable data will include first author’s name and year of publication, the country and regions in sub-Saharan Africa, total neonatal admissions, number with sepsis, the sample size, bacterial isolates, antibiogram, in-hospital mortality, length of hospital stay and frequency of necrotizing enterocolitis.

All studies will be assessed for methodological, clinical and statistical heterogeneity. The NIH Quality assessment tool for observational studies and the Cochrane tool of risk of bias will be used to assess for the strength of evidence. Publication bias will be assessed using the funnel plot.

Discussion: Results will be presented as the prevalence, standard error and confidence interval of newborns with neonatal septicaemia in sub-Saharan Africa. Subgroup analysis using categorical data such as risk factors, bacterial isolates, antibiogram and outcomes of neonatal septicaemia will also be reported. A cumulative meta-analysis will be done to assess the time trend of the risk factors, pathogens and antibiogram.The CMA version 3 will be used for statistical analysis. Results will be presented in forest plots.

Delays Experienced by Patients With Pediatric Cancer During the Health Facility Referral Process: A Study in Northern Tanzania

It is estimated that 50%-80% of patients with pediatric cancer in sub-Saharan Africa present at an advanced stage. Delays can occur at any time during the care-seeking process from symptom onset to treatment initiation. Referral delay, the time from first presentation at a health facility to oncologist evaluation, is a key component of total delay that has not been evaluated in sub-Saharan Africa.

Over a 3-month period, caregivers of children diagnosed with cancer at a regional cancer center (Bugando Medical Centre [BMC]) in Tanzania were consecutively surveyed to determine the number and type of health facilities visited before presentation, interventions received, and transportation used to reach each facility.

Forty-nine caregivers were consented and included in the review. A total of 124 facilities were visited before BMC, with 31% of visits (n = 38) resulting in a referral. The median referral delay was 89 days (mean, 122 days), with a median of two facilities (mean, 2.5 facilities) visited before presentation to BMC. Visiting a traditional healer first significantly increased the time taken to reach BMC compared with starting at a health center/dispensary (103 v 236 days; P = .02). Facility visits in which a patient received a referral to a higher-level facility led to significantly decreased time to reach BMC (P < .0001). Only 36% of visits to district hospitals and 20.6% of visits to health centers/dispensaries yielded a referral, however.

The majority of patients were delayed during the referral process, but receipt of a referral to a higher-level facility significantly shortened delay time. Referral delay for pediatric patients with cancer could be decreased by raising awareness of cancer and strengthening the referral process from lower-level to higher-level facilities.