The density of health workers is critical to attaining universal health coverage and health emergency preparedness and response. Yet, the African region has the lowest density of health workers per 10,000 population with a projected 5.3 million health worker shortage by 2030.
To help address the looming shortages of health workforce and the associated challenges of investment, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners convened a regional policy dialogue on investment and protection of health and care workers in Africa.
The aim of the dialogue is to bring together members states, investors and partners to draw on lessons learned to determine key health workforce investment principles and opportunities and explore the role of the sub-regional bodies in strengthening health workforce investments and protection of the health and care workers (HCWs).
Speaking at the opening of the dialogue in Accra, the WHO Representative to Ghana, Dr Francis Kasolo noted that investing in the health workforce will expand Universal Health Coverage, strengthen health security, equity, youth, and women’s economic empowerment. He, therefore, called for urgent action by stakeholders to accelerate investment in health workforce.
“Countries should increase health prioritization in the public budget to increase investment in health workforce” Dr Kasolo stated. “Donors and partners can and should also play a key role in strengthening investments in the health workforce”.
Dr Francis Kasolo further called for investment in occupational health and safety and social protection of health and care workers to improve efficiency and to reduce health workforce migration out of Africa.
“Countries will have to secure national or sub-national mechanisms for purchasing and supplying personal protective equipment,” stated Dr Kasolo. “They must take steps to prevent and manage health workers stress and burnout, whilst ensuring that all health workers have access to a health insurance”.
The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the vital importance of maintaining existing workforce budgets and leveraging long-term sustainable domestic and external partner investments in the health workforce to ensure enough health workers are attracted, deployed, protected and retained where they are needed and with the skills, support, motivation, and equipment to do their jobs safely.
In his remarks, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Health, Alhaji Mahama Asei Seini called for a paradigm shift in investing better and smarter in Africa’s health workforce to position the continent on the path to achieving universal health coverage.
“There can be no better time to invest in health workforce. Investments in health workforce will protect vulnerable populations from the shocks of current crises and improve health access,” added Alhaji Mahama Asei Seini,
The regional dialogue brought together 75 participants from 26 countries, regional and sub-regional economic communities including the African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Economic, Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and other partners to share experiences on the health workforce investment and protection strategies implemented since 2018.