By Sharon Atieno

A new emergency loan guarantee facility has made more than USD$30 million available to private, small- and medium enterprise (SME) health providers in five high malaria burden African countries- Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Of the five million patients that the loan facility created by the Health Finance Coalition could impact, almost 3 million are low-income patients, and approximately 2.4 million are women and 1.4 million are children, who are disproportionately at risk of malaria and other infectious diseases.

Loans are expected to average $17,000 per provider to help stabilize operations, buy essential medical equipment including personal protective equipment, and finance small-scale construction to protect patients from COVID-19 infection.

The loan facility will be managed by Malaria No More and loans will be administered through the Medical Credit Fund (MCF), a non-profit health investment fund.

MCF’s partner organization SafeCare, in collaboration with the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) will provide training materials to facilities on how to continue providing routine services safely during the pandemic.

“Many of our clients are under increased pressure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and see patient visits and revenues decrease. This agreement helps us to further support health entrepreneurs so they can continue providing the services needed to keep their communities healthy,” Kennedy Okong’o, Director East Africa, Medical Credit Fund stated.

Despite the private healthcare sector providers delivering nearly 50 percent of all healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa; the decreased demand for healthcare services generally has had a negative toll on the sector and has put many of them at risk of closure due to decreased revenues.

“With COVID-19 putting tremendous financial pressure on health budgets across Africa, we need creative financing solutions to help governments achieve their ambitious health goals. The Open Doors African Private Healthcare Initiative, which supports private health providers through a blend of grants and return-seeking capital, is a leading example. I hope to see strategies such as this one scaled up in the months to come,” said Ray Chambers, WHO Ambassador for Global Strategy and Health Financing and Chair, the MCJ Amelior Foundation, a funder in the facility.

Other funders include: PMI, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), The Rockefeller Foundation and the Skoll Foundation. Additional support comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Center for Innovation and Impact (CII).

“The private sector provides millions of people in Africa with essential health care for malaria and other diseases. PMI is proud to support this effort to help ensure they can continue their life-saving work during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” Ken Staley, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator said.