The People across Africa have to travel far to get to a hospital.

Nearly half of all deaths and about a third of disabilities in low and middle-income countries could be avoided if people had access to emergency care. In Africa the main causes of emergencies are road accidents, obstetric complications, severe illnesses and non-communicable diseases.

Over the past 18 years the African Federation for Emergency Medicine, an advocacy group, has been encouraging the development of emergency care systems on the continent. The gaps it has identified include decent transport and hospital services.

But to address these challenges data is needed on the number of hospitals, their locations as well as the population marginalised. Most countries in Africa don’t have this information. They lack basic inventories of health care service providers, including the number of hospitals.

Our study set out to address this problem by producing the first ever assessment of hospital services in sub-Saharan Africa, and used it to work out peoples’ access to care.

The results – including how long it takes to get to a hospital – show where investment is needed in improving access. Various interventions are necessary. These should include building new hospitals, improving ambulatory care, building new roads and fixing existing ones.

But the most urgent action is that countries must update their hospital lists, including assessment of capacity and capability to provide emergency care and updating of the private sector. Our research goes someway to helping them start this process. We have built a database which can be accessed for free and used for assessing service availability at national levels.

Building the database
The hospital list covers 48 countries and islands of sub-Saharan Africa. To develop the list we used numerous sources for the data, including ministries of health, health information systems, national and international organisations from all the countries and islands. In most cases, the sources were available online but we also relied on personal contacts to obtain hospital data in some countries.

MAP OF HOSPITALS

Map of public hospitals in Africa