World Nurses Day; WHO says shortage of nurses a threat to universal Health Coverage

By Blessing David

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti has said that WHO African Region has long battled with a severe shortage of nurses which if left unaddressed, stands as a significant threat to the progress toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC), as such the world is in need of 9million nurses more.

Meoti gave this hint in her message to commemorate the International Nurses’ Day 2022 with the theme, Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in Nursing and Respect Rights to Secure Global Health, which could not be more appropriate

According to her: “The event is in line with global COVID-19 health emergency, which has highlighted the depth of the nursing shortage in Africa, and globally.

She said also that Nigeria has the highest share of the headcount of nurses at 21%, followed by South Africa at 18% therefore the world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives to realize the health-related global Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

“WHO in Africa’s analysis has identified a threshold of about 60 nurses and midwives per 10 000 people as a critical point for attaining at least 70% of the Universal Health service coverage index. Currently, most countries have fewer than 20, with the number dropping way below even that for many across the continent.

“Nurses have a critical role to play in Primary Health Care delivery, often being the first – and only – health professional a patient will see. They contribute to research, disease prevention, treating the injured, administering palliative care, and more. They are the true unsung heroes on the front lines of disease prevention and care.

“It’s common cause that investing in nurses and midwives is good value for money. According to the UN High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, investments in education and job creation in the health and social sectors result in a threefold return in terms of improved health outcomes, global health security, and inclusive economic growth.

Emphasizing the true value of our nurses, and the central role they have to play in influencing change can transform the future of health care in Africa.

“Throughout the pandemic, nurses have made great sacrifices, acted courageously and recommitted daily to tackle a global health threat that is unprecedented in modern times, serving as an indispensable pillar supporting African health care systems through some very challenging times”.

Moeti further said, “As WHO in Africa, we are supporting Member States to strengthen nursing and midwifery through the implementation of the Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery (SDNM) 2021-2025, and an inter-related set of policy priorities to guide the contributions of nurses and midwives to achieve Universal Health Coverage, and other population health goals.

“In our continuing efforts to give nurses a voice, WHO established the Nursing and Midwifery Global Community of Practice virtual network, a forum for nurses and midwives around the world to collaborate with one another, with WHO, and with other key stakeholders.

“On International Nurses’ Day today, I want to take this opportunity to call on African governments to commit the necessary investment to help improve the attractiveness of the nursing profession. This will require proper equipment, better working conditions, appropriate education, upskilling opportunities, and job creation.

“Nursing leadership also needs to be optimized, with chief nursing and midwifery officers mandated to drive the nursing agenda across education, employment, policy and practice.

“Around 80% of primary health care can be delivered by nurses, and the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly served as an important platform to reiterate how integral nurses are to the maintenance of routine health care delivery, while also responding to a global crisis.
The case for investing in nursing education, jobs and leadership is clear, and it’s time to commit to action”, she added.

She appreciated and celebrate all nurses in the African Region, and thank them for their unwavering dedication in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Nurses’ Day is celebrated annually on 12 May in memory of the birth of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, but also to honour nurses as an invaluable resource, and raise awareness of the challenges they face.

According to the latest estimates, there are 1.6 million nurses and midwives across the 47 Member States. A total of 66% of nurses are concentrated in six countries – Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa.

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