Responding to COVID-19 boosts Suriname’s health system

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PAHO/WHO supported Suriname in advancing preparedness and response capacities. The Central Laboratory of the Bureau of Public Health/Bureau voor Openbare Gezondheidszorg (BOG) was provided reagents for molecular testing. Laboratory technologists were trained in conducting screening and confirmatory tests for COVID-19. This photo was taken in February 2020, before COVID-19 hit the country. © WHO/PAHO

Suriname is preparing to come out stronger from COVID-19. As the pandemic highlights the gaps in the country’s health system, the Government is acting quickly to drive its response, engaging partners, reaching remote communities through primary health care and building a strong foundation for universal health coverage.

About 90% of Suriname’s landmass is characterized as tropical rainforest. In the most remote villages reside indigenous communities who need access to effective primary health care. This is just one of the many challenges that Suriname’s health system faces. COVID-19 has further highlighted its small health workforce: just eight physicians and 23 nurses per 10,000 people, health infrastructure that is still being developed and limited emergency response capacity, among others.

UHC Partnership support for COVID-19

Since the start of 2020, WHO, through the UHC Partnership, has expanded its support in strengthening Suriname’s health system with the goal of helping the country achieve universal health coverage. With funding from the European Union, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Irish Aid, the Government of Japan, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the UK Department for International Development and Belgium, the Partnership has been supporting work in four main areas: saving lives, protecting health care workers, slowing the spread of the virus and strengthening epidemic intelligence.

Suriname’s experience in preparing for COVID-19 and its urgent actions to keep its population safe has also brought a unique opportunity to chart a new path for public health in the country.

Looking forward, WHO will continue to support Suriname in building a resilient health system and to develop and maintain capacities to prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics.