NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 30, 2004

Africa is going through several major health crises, but does not have the resources to deal with them. According to the Joint Learning Initiative (JLI), an international consortium of academic centers and development agencies, there is a severe shortage of doctors, nurses and other health care workers in these countries.

The JLI notes that sub-Saharan Africa has only one-tenth the number of nurses and doctors per person that Europe does, despite its more pressing health crises. Not only does Africa produce too few doctors, but many leave for better-paying jobs in the developed world. For example:

  • A mere 5,000 doctors per year graduate in Africa -- a third of the number that graduates in America.
  • Many doctors educated in Africa leave -- only 50 of the 600 doctors trained in Zambia in recent years are still in the country.
  • There are more Malawian doctors in Manchester, England, than Malawi.

The JLI estimates that the world needs four million more health-care workers, of whom one million are needed in sub-Saharan Africa alone. They recommend that roughly $400 million or 4 percent of the overseas aid currently spend on health, be earmarked to help build up the health-care workforce in poor countries.

Source: "Doctors' dilemma," Economist, November 26, 2004; based upon: "Human Resources for Health: Overcoming the Crisis," Joint Learning Initiative, 2004.


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