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Africa battling shortage of health workers: Report

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Africa does not have enough health workers to meet the needs of its population, according to a new study.

The study which was published in the British Medical Journal surveyed health workforce in 47 countries between January 2018 and April 2019.

The findings show that the continent does not have enough health workers across different medical fields like physicians, nurses, and midwives. It is estimated that the continent has 3.6 million health workers across the 47 countries surveyed.

The study titled, “The health workforce status in the WHO African Region,” shows that on average, Africa has a 1.5:1000 health worker ratio. This is below the recommended World Health Organization ratio of 4 health workers per 1,000 people.

The report attributes the high shortage of health workers to several factors including inadequate training capacity, international migration or brain drain, weak governance of the health workforce, and poor retention of health personnel. It is projected that the shortage of health workers in Africa will reach 6.1 million by 2030, a 45% increase from 2013, the last time projections were estimated.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa says the shortage of health workers creates a challenge in tackling maternal and infant mortality.

“The severe shortage of health workers in Africa has daunting implications. Without an adequate and well-trained workforce, tackling challenges such as maternal and infant mortality, infectious diseases, non-communicable illnesses, and providing essential basic services like vaccination remains an uphill battle,” she said.

According to the report, 37 percent of the workforce, the majority, is made up of nurses and midwives while medical doctors are only nine percent. Laboratory personnel and community health workers contribute 10 percent and 14 percent respectively while 12 percent are administrative and support staff.

Only four countries; Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, and South Africa have surpassed the WHO health worker-to-population ratio.

In Uganda, the doctor-patient ratio stands at 1:24,000. For this ratio to be reduced, the report recommends that governments address the persistent shortages and poor distribution of the health workforce.

In addition to this, the report suggests that countries increase investments in building the health workforce to meet their current and future needs. In addition to this, it suggests that strong measures be taken to boost the training and recruitment of health workers as well as to improve their deployment and retention.

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One comment

  1. Strong measures to boost training:

    Training of health workers should be supported

    Some of the institutions lack the requirements to generate the right product

    Having a workforce with varied skill and knowledge may not be good for individual clients

    The humble prayer is for adequate resources and committed regulatory bodies

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