Guardian Examines Africa’s Health Worker Shortage

The Guardian’s “Katine Chronicles” blog examines the global shortage of health workers. According to the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DfID), more than 50 countries have a “critical shortage” of health workers and Africa needs an additional 800,000 health workers by 2015. “Of the 34 countries furthest behind in their quest to meet the [Millennium Development Goals], 22 are classed as ‘fragile states,’ countries in which the government is unable or unwilling to deliver basic functions to the majority of its people. Health worker shortages are particularly acute in these countries,” the blog writes. The world has a shortage of 350,000 midwives, according to Frances Day-Stirk of the Royal College of Midwives.

The blog looks at the reasons behind the “inadequate number of skilled and trained health professionals,” which include poor working conditions, as well as weak planning and management. “NGOs also report constant delays in the recruitment of staff due to bureaucracy and funding issues … Poor management information systems to track health workers and monitor levels are also a huge concern; while salaries are a massive disincentive for potential entrants to the healthcare sector and are low enough to provoke industrial action and migration,” according to the blog.

It also notes some NGO efforts to deal with the health worker shortage, including programs by Voluntary Service Overseas, which “has 120 volunteers including doctors, nurses, midwives and management advisers in 10 countries and has medical volunteers supporting disability programmes in 13 countries – all of which helps strengthen health systems.” According to the blog, the Obama administration’s Global Health Initiative “is aiming, among other things, to increase the number of trained health workers and community workers appropriately deployed in ‘resource-poor’ countries and to improve the functioning of health management information and pharmaceutical management systems” (King, 4/13).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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