The Arab region has seen significant improvements in key health indicators over the past decades, including lower maternal and under-five mortality. However, overall, levels of health and well-being remain significantly uneven within and between countries (SDG 10). Health services in the region are fragmented and often supply driven, and access to primary health care and universal health coverage vary widely within and among countries and social groups (SDG 1). Most health systems continue to focus largely on curative health services instead of primary and preventative care, and pay little attention to the social determinants of health. Progress towards achieving universal health coverage has also been challenged in several Arab countries, partly owing to humanitarian crises and political instability (SDG 16).
The COVID-19 pandemic is putting unprecedented pressure on health systems in the region, and various achievements are at risk of being lost. The region as a whole needs to shift to a rights-based and multisectoral approach to human health and well-being, including by consolidating systems and services, enhancing the capacity and numbers of service providers, and addressing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of SDG 3 (SDGs 1, 2, 4 , 6, 8, 11 and 13). Stronger investment in data and analysis and continuity of essential services in times of crisis are also necessary.