Only 3% of world's healthcare workers are in Africa

Africa needs a new health initiative. (iStock)
Africa needs a new health initiative. (iStock)

African health experts are set to tackle health challenges on the continent by providing innovative solutions led by African health specialists under Africa’s first health umbrella body, African Forum for Research and Education in Health (AFREhealth).

Fragile health systems

“Africa needs African solutions led by Africans. Through AFREHealth, the continent’s leading health figures from more than 60 medical and nursing schools have come together to improve health outcomes, build capacity and improve the education and training of health professionals across Africa.

"Our continent’s health systems are fragile, severely resource and budget constrained and to ensure our implementations are successful we must ensure that funders that share our common health goals of improving health in Africa support solutions which address local needs and are locally relevant,” AFREhealth Chairperson, Professor Peter Donkor told delegates at the organisation’s first annual conference in Ghana since its launch a year ago.

Delegates attending the conference, including international funders, have all called on African-led solutions to include accountability of heads of state on the continent and more effort to ensure governments prioritise health as a key sector requiring urgent intervention.

AFREhealth ideally placed

Addressing the conference, Ghana’s health minister, Agyeman Manu gave his country’s assurance that it would support efforts by AFREhealth to address health challenges on the continent through local solutions.

“AFREhealth is ideally placed to tackle the continuing concerns of diseases on the continent. We must ask ourselves why is it that Africa continues to battle against high maternal mortality rates and malaria? What we need are affordable, accessible and appropriately trained health professionals which I believe an organisation like AFREHealth can assist with and it has the full support of my ministry,” said Agyeman Manu.

Experts at the conference all decried the lack of resources amid robust discussions on how organisations can sustain themselves financially if they are to succeed in their goals of improving health care.

Africa currently has 24% of the world’s burden of diseases yet has only 3% of the global health workforce. Added to this challenge, was the "brain drain" of health professionals, including nurses, which continued to plague countries across Africa.

Training schools under-resourced

To address this, AFREhealth aims to roll out training programmes and opportunities for research education for health professionals whilst providing incentives to retain them at faculty and institutional level.

“Our current health workforce required to tackle health challenges like maternal mortality and malaria is severely constrained and in short supply. In addition, health training institutions lack the capacity to meet the demand for places.

"The few available training schools are under-resourced with poor infrastructure and limited faculty, Curricula are often outdated and access to ICT, internet and other training tools is minimal. These are all issues AFREhealth will tackle as an Afri-centric, independent body. This is going to be a game changer for the continent,” added Donkor.

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