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07.04.2006 Health

Africa needs more health workers to improve health care - WHO

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Kasoa (C/R), April 7, GNA - Africa needs at least one million more health workers to bring out any noticeable improvement in its health care delivery, World Health Organisation (WHO), said on Friday. The current health workers and population ratio in Africa, which stood at 0.8 health workers per 10,000 inhabitants, indicates that very little progress could be achieved if the situation remained unchanged. This was contained in a speech read on behalf of Dr Luis Gomes Sambo, WHO Africa Regional Director, at the launch of this year's World Health Day at Kasoa in the Central Region.

The day under the theme; "Working together for health" was organised by the WHO for the first time, aimed at working in collaboration with stakeholders in the health sector to ensure good health, vitality and equitable access to quality health. Dr Sambo said physical space and financial arrangements and ceilings on recruitment made it difficult to scale up production of health workers, recruit and implement appropriate motivation and retention schemes.

He said with the progress being made towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), little attention had been paid to the people, who actually delivered health care. "For too long, the health workforce has been ignored, left to toil and trudge on in silence and this cannot continue", he said. He said the unprecedented crisis in human resources for health plaguing Africa had led to a situation whereby the survival gains achieved in human history was fast eroding.

Africa now possessed 14 per cent of the world's population, 25 per cent of global disease burden and only 1.3 per cent of global health workers. It is known that 2.5 of health workers per 10,000 inhabitants are needed to achieve the MDGs.

He described the human resources crisis as complex and multifaceted problem that weakened an already feeble system; and overcoming the crisis, required sustainable solution adapted to country specific contexts.

Dr Sambo said there was the need to strengthen health systems and human resource for health and this needed the involvement of governments, private sector, civil society and partners in human resources for health development, adding that regional mechanisms should be identified for follow-up actions.

"The year 2006 provides each of us an opportunity to remind the world that we need sufficient skilled, ethical, motivated and well supported health workforce that forms the bedrock of healthy nations". He pledged WHO's continuous collaboration with stakeholders to improve the availability of skilled and motivated health workers. In Ghana, the persistent migration of health personnel had greatly affected the human resource development of the nation.

Available statistics shows that 12,356 health professional including medical doctors, pharmacists, laboratory technicians and nurses left the country in search of greener pastures between 1993 and 2002.

A study carried out on migration of health professionals in Ghana, Cameroon, South Africa, Senegal Uganda and Zimbabwe in 2000 indicated that more than 5,000 doctors left for United States with similar reasons of good quality education, better salaries, pleasant working environment and other motivating factors.

Ghana currently has 1,210 practising physicians while 478 graduates of Ghanaian medical schools were practising in the United States alone. "These 478 Ghanaian graduates in the USA represent 30 per cent of Ghana's potential medical workforce. If none of those had gone to the USA, the physician to population ratio would have improved form 6.2 to 8.7 per 100,000".

Mr Samuel Owusu-Adjei, a Deputy Minister of Health, who launched the day, said the achievement of good health for all persons was a shared responsibility at the home, community and national levels and not just the Ministry of Health.

He said positive collaborations would create the right environment to attain higher levels of good health and achieve the objectives of the MDGs. Solidarity messages from Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Education and Sports; Ministry of Trade and Industry; UNICEF and UNFPA called on the public to invest in their own health, cultivate the habit of personal hygiene, proper nutrition and body exercise to ensure good health. 7 April 06