Primary health care, treatment for chronic diseases and other essential medical services around the world remain disrupted by the pandemic alongside workforce shortages and patient fears, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Some 94% of 135 countries and territories responding to its survey reported some disruption, including in life-saving emergency interventions, between January and March, it said in a report.

"Health systems around the world are still being tested more than one year into the pandemic. Nearly all responding countries reported at least one service disruption and disruptions were reported across all health areas, demonstrating the far-reaching impact of the pandemic on health systems," the WHO said.

But there were improvements compared to 2020, with immunisations and some palliative care services for patients back on track, it said.

In wealthy countries, disruptions are most often due to strategic decisions to suspend or modify services, whereas in low- and middle-income countries they are often unplanned, it added.

The 63 services assessed included primary care, emergency care, maternal and newborn care, treatment for chronic diseases including cancer, for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, as well as mental health.