March, 26

Africa is facing health crisis due to shortage of health workers

At least 55 countries in Africa are at risk for a shortage of health employees, the World Health Organization found that these nations are facing a "critical" shortage of health workers.

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Africa is facing health crisis due to shortage of health workers
A healthcare worker prepares a dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, during a mass vaccination in Nairobi, on Dec 16, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]
Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world when it comes to health crises. This is due in large part to the shortage of health workers. According to the latest update by the World Health Organization, Africa is facing a health crisis. The WHO attributes this crisis to the lack of access to healthcare, the high costs of healthcare, and the shortage of health workers.

Some 37 African countries are vulnerable due to the shortage of health workers, according to the updated World Health Organization (WHO) health workforce support and safeguards list released on Tuesday, while 55 countries are at risk of such shortage. This number has increased from the 34 countries that were included on the previous list. The new list also includes five new countries – Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the shortage of health workers in these countries. One is the lack of investment in the health sector. This results in poor working conditions and low salaries, which makes it difficult to attract and retain health workers. Additionally, many health workers leave these countries to seek better opportunities elsewhere. This “brain drain” exacerbates the shortage of health workers in these countries. Another factor is the lack of training opportunities for health workers. This results in a lack of skilled health workers, which further increases the shortage.

The World Health Organization has said in a statement that the recruitment of international health workers has accelerated rapidly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread disruption of health services.

In a statement, the WHO said that the pandemic had “created an unprecedented demand for health workers”, with many countries facing severe shortages of personnel.

The WHO called on all countries to “facilitate the rapid movement of health workers across borders”, and said that it was working with partners to “strengthen the global health workforce”.

WHO has noted that countries’ health systems may suffer if they lose medical professionals to an international movement. This could impede their efforts to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) and health security. Losing medical professionals to other countries could make it more difficult for a country to provide adequate health care to its citizens. Therefore, it is important for countries to retain their medical professionals in order to achieve UHC and health security.

Africa is facing health crisis due to shortage of health workers
African continent is facing health crisis due to shortage of health workers.

The WHO said that of the 55 countries on its list of countries that need extra support and safeguards to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, 37 are in the WHO African region, eight in the Western Pacific region, six in the Eastern Mediterranean region, three in the South-East Asia region, and one is in the Americas. The WHO added that eight countries have been newly added to the support and safeguards list since its original publication in 2020.

Health workers are the backbone of every health system, and yet 55 countries with some of the world’s most fragile health systems do not have enough and many are losing their health workers to international migration. This is according to WHO Director-General Tedros Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

There are a number of reasons for this, including lack of training and development opportunities, poor working conditions, and low pay. As a result, many health workers are leaving their home countries in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

This brain drain creates a major challenge for countries with already fragile health systems. It is essential that these countries invest in their health workforce in order to provide quality care for their populations.

At a time when many countries are struggling to provide adequate healthcare for their citizens, the World Health Organization is working to support them in building a stronger health workforce. In doing so, we call on all countries to respect the provisions in the WHO health workforce support and safeguards list. This list includes measures to protect health workers from violence, harassment, and discrimination, as well as ensuring their working conditions are safe and fair. By following these provisions, we can help ensure that healthcare workers are able to provide the best possible care for their patients.

Inclusion on the list indicates that a country has a long way to go in terms of achieving universal health coverage (UHC). WHO believes that the list should be used to help inform advocacy, policy dialogue, and financing efforts at all levels in order to help these countries close the gap and improve access to quality health care for all of their citizens. Countries included on the list have an UHC Service Coverage Index below 55 and health workforce density below the global median of 49 medical doctors, nursing, and midwifery personnel per 10,000 people.

The WHO’s new policy urges nations to rethink how they staff their health workforce, with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries.

“These countries require priority support for health workforce development and health system strengthening, along with additional safeguards that limit active international recruitment,” it said.

The policy does not forbid international recruitment outright, but it does encourage nations to look first to their own workforce needs, and to enter into government-to-government agreements when recruiting health workers from other countries.

The WHO’s list of Essential Medicines is a list of medications that are considered to be the most effective and safe treatments for a variety of common and serious diseases. The list is updated every three years, with the next update scheduled for publication in 2026.

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