A chronic shortage of health workers in developing nations is undermining essential health services, including treatments for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria , World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said on Tuesday in Singapore ahead of World Health Day on April 7.
Thousands of health care professionals have left their homes in developing nations in search of higher paying jobs in wealthier countries, Reuters reports.
According to WHO's World Health Report 2006, there is a shortage of more than four million health care workers in 57 developing countries. The report says one quarter of physicians and one in 20 nurses trained in Africa currently work in 30 industrialized countries included in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Sub-Saharan Africa has 24% of the global disease burden but has only 3% of the health care workforce worldwide and accounts for less than 1% of global health care spending, the report says.
The Americas have 10% of the global disease burden, 37% of the health care workforce and account for more than half of global health care spending, the report finds.
Chan also said that medical research and development is geared toward the needs of wealthier nations, while the health care needs of developing countries are overlooked.
"Huge gaps in health outcomes are growing wider, and these gaps divide rather precisely along the lines of poverty and wealth," she said, adding, "Health needs in populations left behind by socioeconomic progress are also left behind by the R&D agenda." For example, only a single class of widely effective malaria drugs is available, even though 300 million to 500 million people in developing countries contract malaria annually and more than one million people die from the disease, Chan said.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation