The Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) is deeply concerned by the worsening Covid-19 situation in Sabah.
While we laud increased Ministry of Health mobilisation in the state with the country’s highest poverty rates and some of the poorest health outcomes, we can and must do more.
We urge all leaders, decision-makers and Malaysians to:
- Provide overwhelming assistance – Many organisations, including MHC members, are sending assistance in the form of human resources, medical equipment and financial aid to Sabah
Reports from Sabah indicate a worsening situation that sometimes contradict official reassurances. The situation has been exacerbated by the rapid outbreak and infections among healthcare workers there.
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There have also been reports of an imminent shortage of personal protective equipment and of food insecurity in the rural areas.
While much has been done, more must be done in resource mobilisation and transparency. We must acknowledge the reports from Sabah, and provide surge healthcare support using a precautionary and public health principle.
- Stay focused on Sabah – Sabah only has 12% of Malaysia’s population but is seeing 35% of the country’s total Covid-19 cases and 27% of total deaths (as at 15 October)
Additionally, the cases are coming in a much shorter time period (measured in weeks) compared with other states (measured in months). Also, more patients in Sabah appear to have a worse form of the disease.
These numbers must serve as a wake-up call for everyone to devote more attention and resources to this state.
- Act now and also in the long-term – We must act now to save lives and stop the spread of Covid-19 in Sabah. However, we must not forget Sabah even after this danger period is over
Prior to the pandemic, Sabah had significantly fewer health professionals and health facilities compared with other states (“Health Indicators”, 2019). Sabah has one of the highest maternal mortality and childhood undernutrition rates in the country as well as relatively poor health literacy (“National Health and Morbidity Survey”, 2019). There is also a relatively high population of undocumented immigrants and stateless persons in the state.
These systemic factors affect the health of all Sabah residents. Therefore, our short-term response must also feature long-term health system strengthening for all Sabah residents.
The death rate in Sabah is our collective failure. Immediate action must be taken to contain the outbreak and equip Sabah’s health system with sufficient resources to save lives.
Note: This letter was signed by 48 medical and health-related organisations and 19 medical and non-medical individuals. The full signature list can be viewed at myhealthcoalition.org