The world is facing a shortage of health workers because not enough people are being trained, according to a new report presented at the World Health Assembly on Wednesday.
"The biggest single problem is that we don't educate and train enough," said Nigel Crisp, who co-chairs a Global Health Workforce Alliance taskforce aimed at increasing education and training for health workers.
In Ethiopia, just 200 doctors are trained a year for a population of 75 million while in Britain, over 6,000 are trained for a population of 60 million.
Due to the shortage, about one billion people do not get healthcare or access to health workers, Crisp told reporters in Geneva.
"We are dealing with an urgent and critical shortage. Without implementing changes, thousands of people in the poorest countries in the world will continue to suffer," he said.
Western countries are often accused of "poaching" doctors and nurses from the developing world with the lure of better wages but Crisp said this only accounted for a small percentage of the shortfall.
"We estimate that migration of health workers from poor countries to rich countries amounts to about 12 percent of the gap in health workers," he said.
According to a 2006 World Health Organisation estimate, there is a global shortage of some 4.3 million health workers.
However, to train 1.5 million additional health workers in Africa alone, some 2.6 billion dollars a year is needed.