WHO roots for digital payments to enhance Africa’s war against infectious diseases

KENYA – Greater adoption of mobile payment innovations should be at the heart of preventive and curative interventions aimed at reducing Africa’s burden of infectious diseases, a World Health Organization (WHO) official has said.

Ahmed Hamani, finance officer at WHO Regional Office for Africa said that harnessing digital solutions has strengthened response to vector-borne diseases in the continent through rapid and efficient payment for frontline workers involved in immunization campaigns.

The use of mobile payment innovations has ensured the success of public health interventions like the fight against polio or COVID-19 in Africa since frontline workers are motivated when they receive their dues on time,” Hamani said during a virtual interview in Nairobi on Friday.

He said a mobile payment technology launched by WHO Regional Office for Africa and partners in mid-2020, has ensured that health workers involved in polio vaccination campaigns are paid their allowances promptly.

According to Hamani, the innovation has been rolled out in 15 African countries to help address logistical and operational hiccups that have derailed the continent’s response to infectious diseases.

He said the mobile payment innovation was behind the success of the polio immunization campaign in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by ensuring there was no leakage or delay in compensation of frontline workers.

Hamani said that use of digital payment platforms has cushioned health workers from security risks, improved transparency besides enhancing financial inclusion that is key to the realization of universal health coverage.

He said that WHO is supporting ministries of health across Africa to establish a robust mobile payment ecosystem to ensure that frontline workers involved in the fight against COVID-19 and other infectious diseases are paid promptly.

With malnutrition as a common contributor, the five biggest infectious killers in Africa are acute respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrhea, malaria and tuberculosis, responsible for nearly 80% of the total infectious disease burden and claiming more than 6 million people per year, according to data published by NCBI.

COVID-19 pandemic has brought the urgency to scale up digital payments, reduce the risk of transmission and protect frontline workers,” said Hamani.

He said that African countries that prioritize the adoption of mobile payment innovations will be able to attract and retain highly qualified health workers to boost action on communicable diseases.

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