Understanding the first global forum on human resources for health

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The weeklong conference “The First Global Forum on Human Resources for Health” which opened in Kampala March 2 is long overdue.

by John Yann Samba our correspondent from S. Africa

“With an acute global shortage and migration of healthcare professionals, unfavorable and challenging working conditions, inequalities in access to basic health needs, new killer diseases threatening global security and shorter life expectancies, a new type of health workforce, capable of responding to these challenges is needed for the 21st century” said the Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA), partnership hosted and administered by the World Health Organization (WHO), who initiated the event. This Forum is also an opportunity to revive the primary health care issue, on the 60th birthday of the WHO and 30 years after Alma Ata.

A need for human resources

Sub-Saharan Africa is once more the focus of a bulk of the challenge. With 11% of the world’s population on its soil and 24% of the gloabl disease burden, it has access to only 3 % of the world’s health workers while its health expenditure totals less than 1% of the global health expenditure. Today, the WHO counts 57 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, facing a severe health labour crisis. At least 4.250.000 health workers are needed to fill the gap.

The International Community has set itself ambitious targets in terms of global public health through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which aims: to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, and ensure access to essential medicines. However, the health labour crisis is a major impediment to the achievement of these goals by 2015.


The Kampala Forum focuses on; building consensus on accelerating human resources for health action; building implementation capacity on human resources for health action at a global and country level; as well as building networks and alliances as a global movement on human resources for health, moving from recognition to concrete action. Expected outcomes of the three main objectives include: a commitment to a Global Action Plan for the coming decade; better knowledge on what works, what has not, and why; enhanced and strengthened implementation capacity; and a consolidated and revitalized global movement.

Governmental involvement

The intentions displayed are good, nevertheless, there is the need for binding demands involving world leaders, thus preventing this all important conference from being relegated to international shelves of oblivion to collect dust.

Doctor Francis Omaswa, Executive Director of the GHWA declared in a press conference, Monday, that “with some extra 35 billion USD in the next seven years, that is, 5 billion per year, Africa can redress this lack with proper training, hiring and deployment health professionals…”

Correcting the imbalance

Act Up, an organization dedicated to the fight against AIDS, recalls that, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the eight most wealthy States in the world have a concentration of 50% of the world’s GDP. We discover as a result that 85% of the 5 billion USD needed yearly to resolve the human resource crisis in the African health sector would barely represent 0,02% of the yearly GDP of the G8 countries. In consequence, this puts the G8 members in a capable position to guarantee massif investments in global public interests.

African leaders also have their share of responsibilities. Today, community-based organizations and civil societies are shouldering a huge work in terms of care, counseling and support of people affected by diseases, in efforts to respond to this serious lack. These key actors have developed a sound expertise and need the complete support of our leaders, who must also in turn clearly define requirements directed to the G8 as well as leaders of International Organisations.

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