WHO Lists Zimbabwe Among 55 Countries With Highest Health Workforce Shortages

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released an updated WHO health workforce support and safeguards list 2023, identifying 55 countries including Zimbabwe, as vulnerable for availability of health workers required to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal target for universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030.

By Michael Gwarisa

Zimbabwe which has over the past few years lost thousands of skilled health personal to international migration. However, WHO said even though the latest WHO health workforce support and safeguard list 2023 does not prohibit international recruitment, there should be government-to-government health worker migration agreements in order to stop the hemorrhaging of the healthcare workforce.

According to WHO, the impact of COVID-19 and widespread disruptions to health services has resulted in a rapid acceleration in the international recruitment of health workers. For countries losing health personnel to international migration, this could negatively impact on health systems and hinder their progress towards achieving UHC and health security.

Of the 55 countries, 37 are in the WHO African region, eight in the Western Pacific region, six in the Eastern Mediterranean region, three in the South-East Asia region and one is in the Americas. Eight countries have been newly added to the WHO health workforce support and safeguards list 2023 since its original publication in 2020.

Health workers are the backbone of every health system, and yet 55 countries with some of the world’s most fragile health systems do not have enough and many are losing their health workers to international migration,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“WHO is working with these countries to support them to strengthen their health workforce, and we call on all countries to respect the provisions in the WHO health workforce support and safeguards list.”

The list should be used to inform advocacy, policy dialogue at all levels and financing efforts in support of health workforce education and employment in these countries.

Dr Tedros said international recruitment from now going forward must be  informed by health labour market analysis and the adoption of measures to ensure adequate supply of health workers in the source countries, engagement of Ministries of Health in the negotiation and implementation of agreements; and specify the health system benefits of the arrangement to both source and destination countries.

The 55 countries are Angola, Madagascar, Afghanistan, Benin, Malawi, Djibouti,Burkina Faso, Mali Pakistan, Burundi, Mauritania, Somalia, Cameroon, Mozambique, Sudan, Central African Republic, Niger Yemen, Chad Nigeria, Comoros, Rwanda,  Congo, Senegal, Bangladesh, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Democratic Republic of the Congo,  South Sudan, TimorLeste, Equatorial Guinea, Togo, Eritrea, Uganda, Ethiopia, United Republic of Tanzania, Kiribati, Gabon, Zambia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Gambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, Guinea, Samoa, GuineaBissau, Haiti, Solomon Islands, Lesotho, Tuvalu, Liberia and Vanuatu.

The countries included in the WHO health workforce support and safeguards list 2023 have a UHC service coverage index below 55 and health workforce density below the global median: 49 medical doctors, nursing and midwifery personnel per 10 000 people. These countries require priority support for health workforce development and health system strengthening, along with additional safeguards that limit active international recruitment.


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