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Chronic staff shortfalls stifle Africa’s health systems – WHO study

A severe shortage of health workers in Africa is undermining access to and delivery of health services, even as countries in the region have made efforts to bolster the workforce, according to a new study by the World Health Organization, (WHO).

The study, titled “The state of the health workforce in the WHO African region: findings from a cross-sectional study,” published this week in the British Medical Journal Global Health and surveying 47 African countries, finds that the region has a health ratio of 1.55 workers (doctors, nurses and midwives) per 1000 inhabitants. This is below the WHO density threshold of 4.45 health workers per 1,000 people needed to deliver essential health services and achieve universal health coverage.

According to the study, only four countries (Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles and South Africa) have exceeded the WHO ratio of health workers to population.

The region’s health workforce is also unevenly distributed by country, from 0.25 health workers per 1,000 population in Niger (the lowest level in the region) to 9.15 health workers per 1,000 population in the Seychelles, the highest level in the region.

There were approximately 3.6 million health workers in the 47 countries surveyed as of 2018. 37% of them are nurses and midwives, 9% are doctors, 10% laboratory personnel, 14% are community workers health, 14% are other health workers, and 12% are administrative and support staff.

The long-standing shortage of health workers in Africa is due to several factors, including inadequate training capacity, rapid population growth, international migration, weak governance of the health workforce, career changes, and poor retention of staff sanitary. The shortage of health workers in Africa is projected to reach 6.1 million by 2030, an increase of 45% since 2013, the last time the projections were estimated.

“The dire shortage of health workers in Africa has staggering implications. Without an adequate and well-trained workforce, facing challenges such as maternal and child mortality, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, and providing essential basic services such as vaccination remains an uphill battle,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Director WHO Regional for Africa.

Globally, the Western Pacific region, which includes Australia, China, Japan and Malaysia, had the most physicians with 4.1 million and 7.6 million nurses in 2020, according to a report on human resources for the Health of the WHO Director-General for 2022. Showed the World Health Assembly. The European region had 3.4 million doctors and 7.4 million nurses. Comparatively, the African region had about 300,000 doctors and 1.2 million nurses.

To strengthen Africa’s health system, it is critical to address persistent shortages and maldistribution of the health workforce. Countries must significantly increase investments to develop the health workforce to meet their current and future needs. Strong action is also needed to boost the training and recruitment of health workers, as well as to improve their deployment and retention.

Several African countries have made progress in covering the shortfall, however, the WHO study published this week acknowledges that solving the shortage of health personnel remains difficult due to the complexity and scope of the problem.