Conditions for health system resilience in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Mauritania

Kirsten Accoe, Bart Criel, Mohamed Ali Ag Ahmed, Veronica Trasancos Buitrago, Bruno Marchal

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewpeer-review


Introduction A country’s ability to manage a crisis depends on its level of resilience. Efforts are made to clarify the concept of health system resilience, but its operationalisation remains little studied. In the present research, we described the capacity of the local healthcare system in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, in West Africa, to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods We used a single case study with two health districts as units of analysis. A context analysis, a literature review and 33 semi-structured interviews were conducted. The data were analysed using a resilience conceptual framework.

Results The analysis indicates a certain capacity to manage the crisis, but significant gaps and challenges remain. The management of many uncertainties is largely dependent on the quality of the alignment of decision-makers at district level with the national level. Local management of COVID-19 in the context of Mauritania’s fragile healthcare system has been skewed to awareness-raising and a surveillance system. Three other elements appear to be particularly important in building a resilient healthcare system: leadership capacity, community dynamics and the existence of a learning culture.

Conclusion The COVID-19 pandemic has put a great deal of pressure on healthcare systems. Our study has shown the relevance of an in-depth contextual analysis to better identify the enabling environment and the capacities required to develop a certain level of resilience. The translation into practice of the skills required to build a resilient healthcare system remains to be further developed.

Data availability statement
Data are available upon reasonable request. The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. Confidentiality and anonymity are guaranteed by ensuring all recordings are saved by the principal investigator (KA) and all manuscripts are coded with an interview number. The electronic list of interviewees’ names is stored securely using a password known only to the researcher. The names of the interviewees are at no time mentioned in the study.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere013943
JournalBMJ Global Health
Issue number12
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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