• Media / Public Statement on: Ebola Epidemic, Socio-Economic Implications of Inadequate Human Resources for Health, and Poor Health Financing.
  • Africa Health, Human & Social Development Information Service (Afri-Dev.Info) Launches 2014 Africa Factsheet and Scorecard on Human Resources for Health

September 1 2014

In a statement accompanying the new health workforce factsheet and scorecard, Rotimi Sankore Editor of Afri-Dev.Info commended the efforts of the health sectors in Ebola affected countries, ECOWAS, AUC and development partners but cautioned that:

“A key reason why the World Health Organisation, Doctors Without Borders and other health groups have warned the epidemic will take months to bring under control and may affect up to 20,00 people is health worker shortages and weak health systems. Health workers are the core of every health system, but most African countries have only between 5% to 40% of numbers and required mix of health workers. And historically, levels of Health Financing have been a fraction of required investment”.<--break->

Ebola, and the ongoing challenges of HIV, Malaria, TB, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Non-Communicable Diseases, Reproductive, Maternal or Child Health will not be sustainably resolved without the necessary long term population based planning, multisectoral coordination and investment across the Education, Labour, Human development, Finance, Economic development and Health sectors.”

The historical underinvestment in especially the Education sectors – including poor population based and development needs planning in many African countries – has resulted in many having just a fraction of human resources required across multiple sectors for long term sustainable development.

On How Health Worker Shortages Have Undermined Fight Against Ebola:

“Liberia with about 4 million people has only about 50 doctors compared to over 12,000 doctors for roughly the same population in Croatia. Sierra Leone with almost 6 million people has 136 doctors compared to over 18,000 in Denmark for roughly same population. Guinea with about 11 million people has just over 900 doctors compared to over 76,000 doctors in Cuba for about same population, and Nigeria has just under 59,000 doctors compared to 295,000 doctors in Japan which has 40 million people less than Nigeria. It is not a coincidence that Ebola has devastated Liberia and Sierra Leone which are 2 of the 5 countries globally with the lowest numbers of doctors. (See Factsheet for comparison tables on doctors, nurses & midwives and pharmacists in Ebola affected countries. See Scorecard for Africa Rankings).

Poor Health Financing Has Left Most African Countries Unprepared for Ebola, and Without Necessary Improvements, Likely to Undermine Post 2015, and Africa 2063 Goals:

Health worker shortages are also a key reason why most African countries will not meet health and related MDG’s, and unlikely to meet the Post 2015 and regional 2063 development goals unless this is addressed through a distinct health goal, including human resources for health.

“The poor investment in overall education and human resources development; combined with other determinants including poor actual per capita investment in the health sector – translates into huge differences in life expectancy between African and other countries.

Liberia invests only $18 per capita in health compared to Croatia’s $818; Guinea $7 compared to Cuba’s $573; Sierra Leone $13 compared to $5,563 in Denmark; and Nigeria $29 compared to Japans $3,824. Consequently and in tandem with other related determinants – the difference in life expectancy between Liberia and Croatia is 16 years; between Guinea and Cuba 21 years; between Sierra Leone and Denmark 34 years; and between Nigeria and Japan 30 years.”

Disruption to Society and Economy:

With experts estimating that a one year improvement in life expectancy can result in an increase in GDP of up to 4%, low life expectancy in the Ebola affected and other African countries underlines an important reason for persistent economic under development.

Ebola – with higher visibility, rapid mortality and pandemonium – than other long standing but equally serious health challenges – has disrupted education, farming, food production and supplies, banking, mining, manufacturing, airlines, tourism, retail markets and supply chains, with predictions for heavy economic losses in affected countries.

Emergency funding and donations are important, but only for a short term response. Ebola demonstrates again like HIV before it that health is not just a responsibility of the health sector – long term responses must be population based and multisectoral, and involve Finance, Planning, Human, Social and Economic Development Sectors”. 

Women Account for Up To 75% of Cases and 60% of Mortality – Gender Based Response Crucial:

The Ebola response must take account of the special situation of women and girls, and take necessary measures to protect them. Disaggregation of case’s and mortality indicate that women tend to be disproportionately affected. Women account for 55 to 60 percent of the deceased in the current epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to UNICEF.

“Women also constitute a large section of the health workforce, and are on the frontlines of Ebola response – including regular work as traditional birth attendants, nurses, cleaners and laundry workers in hospitals – and often have to work in less than ideal conditions without protective clothing and disinfectants. Women are also often the primary care-givers, and traders within their communities.

Liberia’s task force on Ebola has reported that 75 percent of those who were infected or died from Ebola were women.

Statement Ends

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