- Strategy will support scaling up and strengthening the full cadre of health workforce
- Transformative African-led, pan-African health workforce strategy – jointly with Africa CDC and ministries of health in countries
Plans to build a robust, fit-for-purpose health workforce for the African continent in partnership with Ministers of Health, the African Union, Africa Centres for Disease Controls (Africa CDC) have been announced at a plenary session at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday 19 September 2022.
At the meeting convened by the CGI, with Health Ministers from Malawi, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia, and representatives from Africa CDC present, Amref Health Africa and Seed Global Health announced a historic $100m commitment over five years to support the scaling up and strengthening of the health workforce on the continent.
The pan-African, and African-led strategy will tackle the serious health worker shortage on the continent. Africa bears 25% of the world’s burden of disease but has only 3% of the world’s workforce to address this, and this is having a serious impact on hundreds of millions across the continent.
The milestone plan will work with member states to support high-quality instruction and training across a range of frontline professionals, from fully-licensed physicians to nurses to community health workers to field epidemiologists at successive levels of their education, for example, student, apprentice, and in-practice.
In some countries, this work has already commenced, and partners will continue to build existing and established national workforce priorities. In the course of this work, the strategy will actively promote and protect gender equity and ensure the recognition and empowerment of the work and contribution of women in the workforce.
The strategy will complement training and research offered at Amref International University (AmIU) – an accredited institution of higher learning in Nairobi, Kenya, which is fully owned by Amref Health Africa – with a focus on training and research in health policy, regulation, and legislation, to develop the African primary healthcare leaders of the future. This commitment includes a full AmIU scholarship for girls from marginalized communities in Africa to undertake a diploma course in nursing and midwifery, preparing them to serve their communities.
In addition, the partners will determine and be accountable for shared targets for investments, programming, and policy required for complete investments in the continent’s health workforce and towards the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Africa CDC’s New Public Health Order.
A study by the World Health Organization (WHO), which surveyed 47 African countries, found the region has a ratio of 1.55 health workers (physicians, nurses, and midwives) per 1000 people. This is far below the WHO threshold density of 4.45 health workers per 1000 people needed to deliver essential health services and achieve universal health coverage. Furthermore, the AU Health Workforce Task Team, endorsed by AU Heads of State and Government in February 2022 will assess health workforce contextual gaps against the WHO norms.
Africa’s long-standing health worker shortage stems from several factors, including inadequate training capacity, rapid population growth, international migration, weak governance of the health workforce, career changes as well as poor retention of health personnel. It is projected that the shortage of health workers in Africa will reach 6.1 million by 2030, a 45% increase from 2013, the last time projections were estimated.
Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Acting Director, Africa CDC said:
“We at Africa CDC are taking the lessons learned from Covid-19 and other epidemics that have confronted the continent to prioritize five pillars of the new public health order.
Addressing the health workers shortage is a critical pillar for our pandemic preparedness, build long-term resilience in our health systems, and our ability to address disease burdens.
Partnerships with organizations like Seed Global Health and Amref Health Africa will be critical to the success of this approach.”
Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO of Amref Health Africa, said:
“For UHC to be truly universal, a shift is needed from health systems designed around diseases and institutions to those designed for people and with people, as embraced at the 69th World Health Assembly in 2016.
“Without such a shift, health systems will become increasingly fragmented, inefficient, and unsustainable. Africa’s response to the pandemic has shown that good leadership, robust policies and guidelines, and an engaged population can move the continent towards a safer world and UHC.
“This would require a complete re-look at health workforce training curriculums to shift from an overemphasis on curative medicine at the expense of integrated care, to one that also embraces health through promotive and preventative health.”
Dr. Vanessa Kerry, CEO of Seed Global Health, said:
“There is an unacceptable divide in the availability of comprehensive, quality health care in Africa – how can it be that in 2022, a woman in Sierra Leone is 50 times more likely to die while giving birth than a woman in the United States.
“We have seen in the face of pandemics that weak health systems, including underinvestment in health workforce, affects not only the health of Africa but that of the world. There is no such thing as too ambitious for the challenges we face today: the status quo is no longer acceptable.
“This commitment is an important step towards universal health coverage in Africa and requires a groundswell of support from Government to civil society, to business and beyond, to all those with the shared goal of a more equal and prosperous future.”