NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 1, 2004

In rural clinics across Africa, people are being trained to treat common illnesses such as diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria, say observers.

While not physicians, these paraprofessionals offer a solution to the brain drain of doctors to rich Western nations and more prosperous African countries. According to health experts, Africa needs one million more doctors and nurses in order to adequately address health demands of the continent.

Poor countries like Ethiopia, Mozambique and Malawi are doubling the small number of paraprofessionals they are training:

  • In Mozambique, such health workers are already common in operating rooms, performing tens of thousands of life-saving surgical procedures.
  • In Malawi, paraprofessionals are performing emergency Caesarean sections.

These substitute doctors offer other advantages: they are much cheaper to train and pay than licensed doctors; they are more willing to work in rural areas; and they generally do not leave the country for greener pastures, say observers.

Source: Celia W. Dugger, "Lacking Doctors, Africa Is Training Substitutes," New York Times, November 23, 2004.

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