Severe Health Workers shortage, especially in sub-Saharan Africa

On 25th May 2006 a new WHO-backed global alliance was launched to address the worldwide shortage of nurses, doctors and other health workers. The Alliance will draw together key partners to help countries improve the way plan for, educate and employ health workers.

Responding to calls by African Heads of State, the G8 industrialized countries and the World Health Assembly for urgent solutions to the health workforces crisis, the Alliance, whose secretariat will be hosted by WHO, will seek practical approaches such as improving working conditions and reaching more effective agreements to manage the migration of health workers. It will also serve as an international information hub and monitoring body.

Fifty-seven countries, 36 of them in sub-Saharan Africa, have severe shortages of and more than 4 million additional doctors, nurses, midwives, managers and public health workers are urgently needed to fill this gap. An adequate health workforce is defined by WHO as at least 2.3 well trained health care providers available per year 1,000 people and balanced in such a way as to reach 80 per cent of the population or more with skilled birth attendance and childhood immunization.

“The Fast Track Training Initiative” – a starting ambitious programme of the alliance aimed at achieving a rapid increase in the number of qualified health workers in countries experiences shortage by mobilizing direct financial support for training institutions, setting up partnerships between schools in industrialized and developing countries for exchanges of faculty and students and returning academic leaders in developing countries with the support of experts from around the world.

“The Global Health Workforce Alliance will bring together all the stakeholders needed to move forward on this plan with a view to sharing evidence-based practices countries can follow to expand their workforces and make them more effective,” said Dr Lincoln Chen, WHO Special Envoy for Human Resources for Health and Chair of the Alliance’s Board.

The initial partners of the Alliance include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Canadian International Development Agency, the European Commission, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, the Global Equity Initiative at Harvard University, the International Council of Nurses, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Ministry of Public Health, Thailand, Physicians for Human Rights, the World Bank and WHO.

Its Executive Director, Prof. Francis G Omaswa, is the former Director General of Health Services of Uganda. The Government of Norway has donated US$ 3.5 million towards the Alliance’s operations during its first year. Seed money for its start-up was donated by the governments of Canada, Ireland and Sweden.

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