Freddy Wathum Drinkwater Oyat, Johnson Nyeko Oloya, Pamela Atim, Eric Nzirakaindi Ikoona, Judith Aloyo, David Lagoro Kitara
Background: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the physical and mental health of the general population worldwide, with healthcare workers at particular risk. The pandemic’s effect on healthcare workers’ mental well-being has been characterized by depression, anxiety, work-related stress, sleep disturbances, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Hence, protecting the mental well-being of healthcare workers (HCWs) is a considerable priority. This review aimed to determine risk factors for adverse mental health outcomes and protective or coping measures to mitigate the harmful effects of the COVID-19 crisis among HCWs in sub-Saharan Africa.
Methods: We performed a literature search using PubMed, Google Scholar, Cochrane Library, and Embase for relevant materials. We obtained all articles published between March 2020 and April 2022 relevant to the subject of review and met pre-defined eligibility criteria. We selected 23 articles for initial screening and included 12 in the final review.
Result: A total of 5,323 participants in twelve studies, predominantly from Ethiopia (eight studies), one from Uganda, Cameroon, Mali, and Togo, fulfilled the eligibility criteria. Investigators found 16.3–71.9% of HCWs with depressive symptoms, 21.9–73.5% with anxiety symptoms, 15.5–63.7% experienced work-related stress symptoms, 12.4–77% experienced sleep disturbances, and 51.6–56.8% reported PTSD symptoms. Healthcare workers, working in emergency, intensive care units, pharmacies, and laboratories were at higher risk of adverse mental health impacts. HCWs had deep fear, anxious and stressed with the high transmission rate of the virus, high death rates, and lived in fear of infecting themselves and families. Other sources of fear and work-related stress were the lack of PPEs, availability of treatment and vaccines to protect themselves against the virus. HCWs faced stigma, abuse, financial problems, and lack of support from employers and communities.
Conclusion: The prevalence of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and PTSD in HCWs in sub-Saharan Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic has been high. Several organizational, community, and work-related challenges and interventions were identified, including improvement of workplace infrastructures, adoption of correct and shared infection control measures, provision of PPEs, social support, and implementation of resilience training programs. Setting up permanent multidisciplinary mental health teams at regional and national levels to deal with mental health and providing psychological support to HCWs, supported with long-term surveillance, are recommended.