WHA Urged to Address Health Worker Gaps in Africa

Media Statement: Issued May 13th 2007

“World Health Assembly Must Draw Up Emergency Plans to Bridge Health
Financing and Health Worker Gaps in Africa” Says Africa Public Health Rights
Alliance – “15% Now!” Campaign

The sixtieth World Health Assembly (WHA) taking place from 14-23 May 2007 in
Geneva, Switzerland must draw up emergency plans to bridge health financing
and health worker gaps in Africa.

In a statement ahead of the WHA meetings, APHRA coordinator Rotimi Sankore

“The World Health Assembly has in the past three years passed several
resolutions on health financing and health worker shortages - yet there has
been an overall increase in annual African deaths resulting from lack of
sustainable health finance and health worker shortages.”

“The worlds Health Ministers must now move from passing resolutions to
effecting resolutions and emergency action to end the deaths of over 8
million Africans a year to preventable, treatable and manageable diseases,
caused mainly by maternal mortality, child mortality, HIV/AIDS, TB and

The APHRA coordinator further stated:

“It is also morally unjustifiable for Health Ministers of developed
countries to subsidise their health systems with African health workers
thereby condemning millions of Africans to death. Africa’s subsidy of the
developed countries through our health workers is worth billions of dollars.
For instance the United States alone with its over 130,000 foreign
physicians has saved an estimated $26billion in training costs. The UK is
estimated to have saved at least $5billion. Development Aid can only be
seen as sincere if more developed countries invest in training their own
health workers instead of undermining African health systems.”

“African Health Ministers must however utilize the opportunity of the Africa
regional group meeting at the WHA to work out the financing of the Africa
Health Strategy they adopted in April in Johannesburg. The strategy cannot
be implemented if it is not financed. The first step to financing it is for
African governments to meet their Abuja 2001 pledge to commit at least 15%
of national budgets to the health sector.

Eric A. Freidman, Global Health Policy Analyst with Physicians for Human
Rights a partner of APHRA added:

“Health Ministers have the opportunity – and the responsibility – in the
coming days to demonstrate leadership in public health. Even as each country
must determine its own particular health plan, through a genuine partnership
between government and civil society, this global gathering is the time for
the Health Ministers to develop a strategy around international cooperation
necessary to make available the funding and the health workers to enable
even the poorest people in the poorest countries to access essential health

“At the upcoming G8 summit, wealthy country governments should commit to
providing their fair share of the financial and technical resources, as well
as to implementing other policies, needed to make a global strategy in
support of national plans a reality.”

Dr Nelson Musoba, Director of Action Group for Health, Human Rights and
HIV/AIDS in Uganda and APHRA partner underlined that:

"The World Health Assembly must urgently address the Public Health
infrastructure, working condition and human resource gaps in the poor
countries so that quality, accessible, and equitable health services can be

Appropriately trained and motivated health personnel are required for any
national health policy to be successfully implemented, yet African health
worker motivation is low as salaries and working conditions are inadequate.
This reduces the capacity of less developed countries to attract and retain
medical personnel and may condemn Africa to a continuous state of
underdevelopment that unless urgently reversed rules out any possibility of
meeting the health based Millennium Development Goals and Universal Access
Targets to Prevention, Treatment and Care.

For Further Information Please Contact the Following:
Dapo Awosokanre / Centre for Research Education & Development of Rights in
Africa (CREDO Africa) - Int office: +44 207 424 5744, media @ credonet.org

Dr Nelson Musoba / Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS
(AGHA), +256 (0) 772 455 254 , nmusoba @ yahoo.com

Eric Friedman /Physicians for Human Rights: +1-202-728-5335 ext. 303, efriedman @ phrusa.org