African Countries Should Increase Funding To Alleviate Health Worker Shortages, Group Says
African countries should increase health sector funding to mitigate worker shortages and prevent deaths from the continent's five leading causes of death, including HIV/AIDS, the African Public Health Rights Alliance said Thursday, Reuters reports. Rotimi Sankore, coordinator of the group, urged African countries to allocate 15% of their annual budgets to the health sector to reduce the migration of health workers to wealthier nations (Nyambura-Mwaura, Reuters, 4/3).
More than 13,000 health workers trained in sub-Saharan African countries now practice in Australia, Britain, Canada and the U.S., according to an article recently published in the Lancet. Recruiting agencies use workshops, advertisements, e-mails and Web sites to attract health workers, according to the article. The agencies generally offer to pay higher salaries, cover moving expenses and provide assistance navigating the visa and citizenship process. The practice of recruiting trained health personnel from sub-Saharan Africa to work in developed nations is weakening health infrastructures and undermining efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in the region, the article said. In Africa, training the 1.5 million new health workers needed to resolve the shortage would cost about $3.3 billion annually during the next eight years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/7).
Developing countries should "invest in health workers and professionals," Sankore said, adding that if they do not, developed countries "will poach them and subsidize their own economies using our health workers." Health spending should be an absolute priority because otherwise, investment in other sectors is "superfluous because everybody would have died out," Sankore said. According to Sankore, Botswana has allocated 23% of its budget to health care, and Mauritius and Seychelles have allocated about 15% each. All other African countries have allocated only 3% to 9%, Sankore said. He added that compensation from countries that recruit health workers is not the solution. "Giving back [compensatory funds] to the developing world is not enough, because apart from the money lost in training those people, we are also losing lives," Sankore said, adding that "those health professionals live there and contribute to that economy" (Reuters, 4/3).