Child Death Toll Rising in Africa Due to Fewer Health Workers

by Tanya Thomas on  September 7, 2011 at 8:33 PM General Health News
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Children in countries facing a dearth of health workers, mainly in Africa, are five times more likely to die from illnesses than those in developed countries, a Save the Children study showed Tuesday.
 Child Death Toll Rising in Africa Due to Fewer Health Workers
Child Death Toll Rising in Africa Due to Fewer Health Workers

The new Health Workers Reach Index by the UK-based NGO shows that Chad is the worst place to treat a sick child, while Switzerland is the best, with 13 of the worst 20 countries for a child to fall ill in, in Africa.

Famine and war-wracked Somalia is the runner up for worst place. Countries like Laos, Nepal, Afghanistan and Bangladesh feature at the bottom.

Finland, Ireland, Norway, Belarus and Denmark are also at the top of the list.

"At the moment, a child's survival depends on where he or she is born in the world. No mother should have to watch helplessly as her child grows sick and dies, simply because there is no one trained to help," said Aboubacry Tall, the NGO's West and Central Africa regional director.

Children in these countries -- which have less than the World Health Organisation minimum of just over two health workers for every thousand people - are five times more likely to die than those countries at the top of the index.

The charity hopes to highlight a global shortage of over 3.5 million doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers two weeks before a crucial UN meeting in New York.

Millions of children risk dying in countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone because of a lack of healthworkers.

"Without health workers no vaccine can be administered, no life-saving drugs prescribed and no woman can be given expert care during their childbirth. Illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, which are easily treated, become deadly," read a press release accompanying the index.

The ranking showed that even rich countries in Africa are lagging behind such as oil-rich Nigeria, in the bottom five, which has yet to approve a national health bill and is home to one of ten under-five child deaths in the world.

The index measures not only how many health workers there are but also their reach and impact. It also tracks the proportion of children who receive regular vaccinations and mothers who have access to life-saving care at birth.

"Even the poorest countries in Africa can make real progress if they stick to their pledge of investing 15 percent of their budgets in health," said Tall.

"African Leaders must tackle the health worker shortage and realise that failing to invest in health workers will cost lives."

According to the NGO, in 2001, countries across Africa pledged to spend 15 percent of their national budgets on healthcare - but only eight have done so: Djibouti, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda.

Source: AFP

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