The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, has called on countries in the region to appreciate what she described as the valuable services of nurses and midwives in the Covid-19 war and in improving health care, well-being and saving lives.
She made the call in a statement to mark the year 2020 World Health Day.
According to her: “Nurses are at the core of the primary health care approach, which is a cornerstone for attaining Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
“They make up at least half of the global health workforce.
“Midwives and nurses are critical links between individuals, families, communities and the health system.
“They provide support along the continuum of care, from promotion, to prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation to end-of-life care.
“In the COVID-19 response, nurses are working non-stop to provide quality care, share health information, implement infection prevention and control, serve in intensive care units, and ensure routine services continue to be delivered. Midwives are continuing to support mothers to safely deliver their babies.
“We must do more to recognize the contributions of nurses and midwives in empowering patients and communities, facilitating multidisciplinary teamwork, and providing holistic care.”
The WHO chief, however, lamented that there is dearth of nurses in the region. This, she said, is likely to affect the region’s ability to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Survey responses from 39 countries in the African Region, show a slight increase in the number of nurses and midwives from 1.02 per 1000 people in 2005 to 1.06 in 2018.
“This is still far below the number needed to achieve UHC and the SDGs. In low- and lower-middle-income countries globally, the number of nurses is not keeping pace with population growth,” she stressed.
Some key actions to be taken to improve the situation, she explained include: “To better understand the challenges and develop evidence-based policies, health workforce data collection, analysis and use needs to improve.
“Education and training should be quality assured and relevant to evolving disease burdens in countries.
“So far, around 30 countries in the African Region have an accreditation body for training institutions.
“More investment is needed in retention and career development, and to ensure decent work conditions.
“Nurse mobility and migration must be effectively and ethically managed. Presently, over 80% of the world’s nurses are in countries that account for half the global population.
“Regulation must ensure nurses and other health workers are accountable for the health of populations.”