KENYA —Health CS Susan Wafula has highlighted the urgent need for African countries to tackle the critical issue of brain drain among healthcare workers, emphasizing its impact on achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Despite facing shortages of health workers, many African nations, including Kenya, grapple with the uncontrolled emigration of healthcare professionals, leading to the loss of valuable skills and human capital investment.

During a high-level side event on developing a Fit-For-Purpose health workforce for UHC in Africa at the 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, CS Wafula urged African countries to act swiftly.

“Africa must address the push factors to ensure resilient health systems for her people. The emergence of new cadres and regulation for optimal practice and safety are areas that need our focus,” she said.

Africa currently faces an estimated shortfall of 6.1 million health workers, contributing to the projected global shortage of 10 million by 2030.

This alarming situation raises concerns about the ability of African nations to achieve UHC and meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the set target date.

To overcome these challenges, CS Wafula emphasized the need for Africa to address the push factors that contribute to brain drain and ensure the resilience of health systems for its people.

She stressed the importance of developing new cadres of health workers and implementing regulations to optimize practice and ensure safety.

These areas require focused attention to preserve the health workforce’s expertise and prevent further loss of skilled professionals.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing workforce-related challenges and added strain to public health emergencies.

Africa, despite bearing 25 percent of the global health burden, only has 1.3 percent of the world’s trained health workers.

This falls significantly below the recommended threshold of 4.5 percent per 1,000 population.

The CS expressed concern over the impact of disease outbreaks on health systems and called for collaborative engagement and strategic partnerships to strengthen the health workforce value chain.

To achieve UHC commitments, CS Wafula emphasized the need for deliberate and focused investments in all aspects of the health system, with a specific emphasis on the health workforce.

Strengthening and improving the health workforce’s capacity is crucial to meet current and future health needs, both locally and globally.

This requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the areas needing enhancement, ensuring the production of a fit-for-purpose workforce capable of responding effectively to healthcare demands.

CS Wafula concluded by highlighting that achieving UHC and addressing workforce challenges necessitate proactive and strategic investments in the building blocks of health systems.

By prioritizing the development and retention of healthcare professionals, African countries can pave the way for stronger health systems, improved access to quality care, and ultimately, the realization of UHC for all their citizens.

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