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Ikedinachukwu Nwankwor Discusses Why Developing Countries Struggle In The Medical Industry

Reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) paint an unflattering picture of the state of healthcare in developing countries. According to one report, over 400 million people have no access to healthcare facilities or any form of basic medicine for that matter.

Ikedinachukwu Nwankwor, assistant professor at the Max Rady College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, believes that the numbers might even be higher than what was stated in the WHO report. In developing nations people who suffer from depression, heart conditions, or diabetes don’t get the medical treatment they need. Many of them are not even aware that they have a health problem.

Challenges And Hurdles

For most people in developing countries, especially those that belong to the middle- and low-income brackets, public health facilities are the only places they can afford. However, these government-run hospitals and clinics are not only understaffed but have a chronic shortage of essential medications too.

Whether in Africa, Asia, or Latin America, the one common denominator in most developing countries is a poorly functioning healthcare system. As Ikedinachukwu Nwankwor points out, the hurdles facing the medical industry are steep. From a weak to non-existent drug manufacturing industry and shortages in storage facilities to an inefficient transportation system and a public sector that has poor procurement practices there is a long laundry list of issues that developing countries must overcome. This all adds up to highly unaffordable drugs which in many cases are not even available.

Traditional Medicine

With this serious gap in the availability and affordability of basic drugs, people in developing nations tend to fall back on traditional medicines. Rituals and herbal recipes are common forms of treatment for poor people who cannot get medical help from health facilities in their countries.

What makes this a critical health issue is that most of these traditional medicines, as well as the individuals who prescribe and administer them, are not regulated or supervised by any governmental or scientific entity. In some developing countries, over 80 percent of the population reportedly rely on traditional medication, spiritual healers, as well as self-medication with medicinal plants. Whether the presence of traditional treatment itself hinders people’s access to medicine and the healthcare system itself is debatable, however, many experts believe that it isn’t helping the situation.

The Path to Progress

Recent studies point to the struggles the medical industry in developing nations is facing as well as the solutions. And since the shortage of drugs is one of the main issues, many countries from Morocco to India and Chile have boosted their drug manufacturing capabilities.

According to Ikedinachukwu Nwankwor, this is a step in the right direction. However, the availability of the medications doesn’t always mean that people who need them can afford them. In Kenya, as a WHO report notes, treating a child with malaria would cost the family about eleven days of wages. Some countries have adopted an insurance scheme that allows poor people to have access to otherwise unaffordable medicines. Governments have a responsibility to not only provide critical medicines but also to offer them at a low cost to the populace.

Ikedinachukwu Nwankwor

Written by

Located in Winnipeg, MB. Staff psychiatrist with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority & Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba.

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