This introduction to Tanzania's health system and acute workforce shortage familiarizes readers with the context in which health professions education takes place. The paper touches on poverty rates, population growth, and characteristics of the health system. The critical shortage of trained health staff is a major challenge facing the health sector, aggravated by low motivation of the few available staff. Other challenges facing the health sector include lack of effective staff supervision, poor transport and communication infrastructure and shortage of drugs and medical equipment. We recommend appropriate action be taken by the government and other stakeholders to provide more financial and human resources for the sector while ensuring their efficient and effective utilization to improve services delivery.