The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched a new report that provides an in-depth look at the largest component of the health workforce globally.
WHO said this in a statement issued at its headquarters in Geneva to commemorate the World Health Day on Tuesday.
The World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated every April 7, under the sponsorship of WHO, as well as other related organisations.
WHO declared 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife and the year is significant for WHO in the context of nursing and midwifery strengthening for Universal Health Coverage.
According to the organisation, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic underscores the urgent need to strengthen the global health workforce.
In the new report on “The State of the World’s Nursing 2020,’’ WHO said it provided an in-depth look at the largest component of the health workforce.
It stated that some findings in the report identified important gaps in the nursing workforce and priority areas for investment in nursing education.
“The report also identifies priority areas for jobs, and leadership to strengthen nursing around the world and improve health for all.’’
The organisation said that nurses accounted for more than half of all the world’s health workers, providing vital services throughout the health system.
“Historically, nurses were at the forefront of fighting epidemics and pandemics that threaten health across the globe.
“Around the world they are demonstrating their compassion, bravery and courage as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic: never before has their value been more clearly demonstrated.’’
The statement quoted WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, as saying “ Nurses are the backbone of any health system. Today, many nurses find themselves on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19.
“This report is a stark reminder of the unique role they play, and a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy.’’
The report put together by WHO in partnership with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and Nursing Now, revealed that there were just under 28 million nurses worldwide.
“Between 2013 and 2018, nursing numbers increased by 4.7 million.
“But this still leaves a global shortfall of 5.9 million – with the greatest gaps found in countries in Africa, South East Asia and the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region as well as some parts of Latin America.
“Revealingly, more than 80 per cent of the world’s nurses work in countries that are home to half of the world’s population.
“And one in every eight nurses practices in a country other than the one where they were born or trained.
“Ageing also threatens the nursing workforce: one out of six of the world’s nurses are expected to retire in the next 10 years. ‘’
To avert the global shortage, the report estimated that countries experiencing shortages needed to increase the total number of nurse graduates by on average eight per cent per year.
This, it suggested, should be done along with improved ability to be employed and retained in the health system.
“This will cost roughly USD 10 per capita (population) per year.’’
The statement also quoted ICN President, Annette Kennedy, as saying: “Politicians understand the cost of educating and maintaining a professional nursing workforce, but only now are many of them recognising their true value.
“Every penny invested in nursing raises the wellbeing of people and families in tangible ways that are clear for everyone to see.’’