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Africa : the continent is home to 1.3% of the world’s healthcare professionals

African Union Journal : the continent is home to 1.3% of the world's healthcare professional

Africa, which represents approximately 17% of the world’s population, accounts for more than 50% of deaths from communicable diseases worldwide. Less than 50% of Africans have access to essential health services, according to official data. A situation attributed largely to the lack of quality infrastructure and human resources in the health sector. Faced with challenges related to access to quality health care, States are undertaking ambitious projects in the areas of infrastructure, human resources and health financing.

Africa has 1.3% of the world’s healthcare workers, yet it bears 25% of the global disease burden, according to the World Health Organization. WHO estimates show that the deficit of health personnel on the continent will stand at 6.1 million by 2030. Less than 50% of Africans have access to essential health services. Meanwhile, according to experts, making access to quality health care a priority contributes to efforts to accelerate the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The challenges of African health systems are essentially based on the lack of adequate infrastructure and human resources. 

“According to the World Health Organization, for every 10,000 inhabitants, a minimum of 23 skilled health personnel is required. We are aware that Mali does not even have 10. In places sometimes, we do not even have 5 health workers per 10,000 inhabitants, but we are developing strategies to ensure quality healthcare for our populations. We are doing this especially by sending community relays to community health centers which are closest to the populations, who are not necessarily health workers but who receive training to be able to detect patients and direct them to the nearest health centers when need arises.”

Assa Badiallo TOURE, Minister of Health and Social DevelopmentMali

The shortage of health professionals in Africa is mainly linked to lack of training, poor working conditions and the absence of incentives. These factors contribute to keeping health workers away from regions where the needs are greatest. The challenge linked to the lack of quality infrastructure is notably attributed to insufficient financing and conflicts. According to the African Development Bank, Africa’s production losses caused by health problems are estimated at around USD 2.4 trillion per year.

“We have initiatives to set up new drug production factories and we are working to ensure that Burkina Faso is as independent as possible in terms of pharmaceutical production. In Burkina Faso, every year, we recruit at least 200 to 300 general practitioners in the public service. In the country, every year, we launch professional entrance examinations for specialized doctors and pharmacists, around 150 to 200. Which means that in terms of human resources, I am not saying that we have filled the entire gap, but great progress has really been made. Our biggest challenge in terms of human resource production is the distribution of personnel.”  

Robert Lucien KARGOUGOU, Minister of Health and Public HygieneBurkina Faso

With the resurgence of diseases such as malaria, cholera, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis as well as an increased risk of infant and maternal mortality in Africa, States are shifting their priorities more towards health. In Nigeria, for example, a West African country where around six out of ten people do not have access to quality primary health services, projects are underway in the areas of infrastructure, human resources and health financing. The government plans to invest USD 3 billion to train 120,000 front-line health workers in 16 months and double the number of primary health centers in communities, from 8,800 to more than 17,000 by 2027.

“The 2024 budget that we are implementing today has the highest allocation to healthcare in the history of our country. We are enrolling about 68 000 nurses every year in our nursing schools. Before the end of this year 2024, we will be enrolling almost 120 000 nurses into our various nursing schools in the country. We are equally building 6 medical industrialisation hubs in each of the 6 geopolitical zones in our country. The president has put in place a committee to look into how we can improve the welfare packages of our healthcare professionals.”

Tunji Alausa, Minister of State for Health and Social WelfareNigeria

The USD 4.5 billion invested each year by African governments in equipment falls well short of the estimated USD 26 billion in annual investments needed to meet health needs over the next decade, experts say. Noting the importance of primary health care in building a resilient and integrated health system in Africa, experts affirm that faced with the problems of limited health professionals and the geographical isolation of rural populations, telemedicine offers solutions.

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