Shortage of healthcare workers in developing countries--Africa

Ethn Dis. 2009 Spring;19(1 Suppl 1):S1-60-4.


The already inadequate health systems of Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, have been badly damaged by the migration of their health professionals. There are 57 countries with a critical shortage of healthcare workers, a deficit of 2.4 million doctors and nurses. Africa has 2.3 healthcare workers per 1000 population, compared with the Americas, which have 24.8 healthcare workers per 1000 population. Only 1.3% of the world's health workers care for people who experience 25% of the global disease burden. The consequences for some countries resulting from loss of health workers are increasingly recognized and are now being widely aired in the public media. The health services of a continent already facing daunting challenges to the delivery of minimum standards of health care are now also being potentially overwhelmed by HIV/AIDS. There is a need for concerted political will and funding support that will allow them to do what is necessary. It may well be asked why special measures should be necessary to influence the migration of health professionals rather than engineers or football players or any other category. The answer must surely be that no other category of worker is so essential to the well-being of the population of every nation.

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / organization & administration
  • Health Workforce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Personnel Selection
  • Physicians / supply & distribution