“If the situation remains as it is today, one billion people worldwide will never see a health worker.”
Healthcare workers are essential for healthcare and their absence threatens the health of individuals/populations as well as destabilises health systems, ultimately contributing to existing global health inequalities.
We take it for granted that when we are sick, we will be able to visit a clinic or hospital and be treated depending on what’s wrong with us. Living in the UK we have the luxury of being able to visit a GP or be referred to a consultant with no thought or worry of how much that visit will cost. We also have the luxury of the GP or consultant actually being there. We know that we will be seen.
This is not the case in many places globally. In fact in some places there is a serious shortage of health workers, particularly in countries in Africa and South Asia that have a high disease burden and need them the most.
A report by Health Poverty Action stated that in 2006 Africa had 24% of the global disease burden yet only 3% of the world’s health workers to fight it as opposed to the Americas (U.S and Canada) who had 10% of the global disease burden yet 37% of the world’s health workers. When we think of the number of different countries in Africa and the populations of each individual country, we start to get the picture that 3% is nowhere near enough.
A 2013 World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA) Secretariat report on the health worker shortage proposed the following action points for countries to counteract this phenomenon:
- Recognise the centrality of the health workforce in translating the vision of universal health coverage into improved health care on the ground
- Asses the gap between the need for a health workforce, actual supply (stock, skills mix and competencies) and the population’s demand for health services
- Formulate human resources for health policy objectives that encapsulate the vision for health services.
- Build the data, evidence base and strategic intelligence required to implement and monitor the policy objectives and to sustain effective management.
- Build and sustain the technical capacity to design, advocate for and implement policies.
- Build political support at the highest level to ensure continuity in the pursuit of universal health coverage.
- Reform the governance and institutional human resources for health environment.
- Assess the cost of the various scenarios of health workforce reforms.
- Encourage international partners to focus their support and to report on their official development assistance for building the capacity of health systems.
- Encourage international partners to address transnational issues and strengthen global human resources for health governance, collaborative platforms and mechanisms.
As DfAD we are interested in Action Point 2, especially in how we as the African Diaspora can help assess the gap needed, either in skills or resources, and contribute to strengthening health care systems on the continents, specifically in Zambia and the Southern African region. This is why we are in support of the recently announced initiative by the High Commission of the Republic of Zambia in the United Kingdom.
The High Commission is considering organising an event sometime this year for Zambian health workers and supporters currently residing/working in the United Kingdom. The event will consider ways in which these workers and supporters could contribute more effectively to the Republic of Zambia’s health sector. To support preparations for this event, the High Commission have requested that all Zambian health workers and supporters, from all cadres, working/residing in the UK send them their information by completing the form below in order to give them an idea of the numbers and interest in this initiative.
Download the form here – REGISTRATION OF UNITED KINGDOM-BASED ZAMBIAN HEALTH WORKERS & SUPPORTERS
Please email the completed form to: IMushinge@zambiahc.org.uk, by 30thMarch, 2014.
For more information on the shortage of health workers, please go to:
- A Universal Truth: No Health Without Workforce, World Health Organization
- The Health Worker Crisis: an analysis of the issues and main international responses, Health Poverty Action, www.healthpovertyaction.org
Note on Author:
Lukeki is the DfAD Health Programme Lead. She is a Biochemistry and Genetics MSci (Hons) graduate from the University of Nottingham. She has a passion for global health, particularly issues around access to medicines and access to adequate healthcare systems in developing countries. She believes that it is imperative for people to have access to medicines and adequate health systems as good health affects all areas of life. She also believes that there is a large opportunity for the diaspora to be involved in improving healthcare in developing countries. Investing in healthcare can only have a positive impact on the levels of education, the standards of care, the productivity of individuals and ultimately the economy.
She is a One Young World Ambassador and currently working on a project to address the issue of self-esteem in young girls in our communities.