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Access to primary healthcare Services in Conflict-Affected Fragile States: a subnational descriptive analysis of educational and wealth disparities in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Nigeria
Authors: Marwa Ramadan, Hannah Tappis, Manuela Villar Uribe, and William Brieger
Source: International Journal for Equity in Health, Volume 20, issue 253; DOI:
Topic(s): Health care utilization
Health equity
Country: Africa
  Congo Democratic Republic
Published: DEC 2021
Abstract: Background: Measuring and improving equitable access to care is a necessity to achieve universal health coverage. Pre-pandemic estimates showed that most conflict-affected and fragile situations were off-track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals on health and equity by 2030. Yet, there is a paucity of studies examining health inequalities in these settings. This study addresses the literature gap by applying a conflict intensity lens to the analysis of disparities in access to essential Primary Health Care (PHC) services in four conflict-affected fragile states: Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Nigeria. Methods: For each studied country, disparities in geographic and financial access to care were compared across education and wealth strata in areas with differing levels of conflict intensity. The Demographic Health Survey (DHS) and the Uppsala Conflict Data Program were the main sources of information on access to PHC and conflict events, respectively. To define conflict intensity, household clusters were linked to conflict events within a 50-km distance. A cut-off of more than two conflict-related deaths per 100,000 population was used to differentiate medium or high intensity conflict from no or low intensity conflict. We utilized three measures to assess inequalities: an absolute difference, a concentration index, and a multivariate logistic regression coefficient. Each disparity measure was compared based on the intensity of conflict the year the DHS data was collected. Results: We found that PHC access varied across subnational regions in the four countries studied; with more prevalent financial than geographic barriers to care. The magnitude of both educational and wealth disparities in access to care was higher with geographic proximity to medium or high intensity conflict. A higher magnitude of wealth rather than educational disparities was also likely to be observed in the four studied contexts. Meanwhile, only Nigeria showed statistically significant interaction between conflict intensity and educational disparities in access to care. Conclusion: Both educational and wealth disparities in access to PHC services can be exacerbated by geographic proximity to organized violence. This paper provides additional evidence that, despite limitations, household surveys can contribute to healthcare assessment in conflict-affected and fragile settings.