In a study entitled “The health workforce status in the WHO African region: findings of a cross-sectional study” published this week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) notes a “severe shortage of health workers in Africa”. This shortage is accentuated in Cameroon, according to the same study.
The density threshold of health personnel (doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, community health workers) is very low in Cameroon. The country has less than one health worker per 1,000 inhabitants. This places Central Africa’s economic leader well below the WHO standard, which sets the minimum density threshold to ensure adequate care at 4.45 health workers per 1,000 inhabitants.
The WHO classifies 23 other sub-Saharan African countries in the red zone. The list includes Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Ethiopia. But it is Niger that closes the gap with a density threshold of 0.25. In contrast, in Central Africa, Gabon is one of the five countries on the continent that are close to the norm.
The study finds that only four African countries are above the recommended density threshold. These are Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles and Mauritius. This low representation shows that Africa is still lagging behind in this area.
WHO experts explain that there are four main reasons for this. The first is the low training capacity in the countries of the continent. But also the strong demographic growth, the international migration of health professionals and poor governance.
“To strengthen the African health system, it is essential to address the persistent shortages and maldistribution of health workers. Countries need to significantly increase their investment in the health workforce to meet their current and future needs. Strong measures are also needed to boost the training and recruitment of health workers and to improve their deployment and retention,” says a WHO statement issued on 22 June.
Although the study is recent, WHO collected the data between January 2018 and April 2019 in 47 African countries. The study was conducted in public and private health facilities.