GHWA welcomes G8 commitment for action on chronic health worker shortages

But more new investment urgently needed to turn commitments into reality

Geneva, 9 July 2008 --The Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA) strongly welcomes G8 leaders’ commitment in Hokkaido, Japan, to actively address the critical shortages of health workers across the world.

GHWA applauds Japan and the other G8 nations for recognizing that a competent supported health workforce is fundamental to developing robust health systems and to reaching health and development goals. GHWA also welcomes the G8’s noting of the importance of the Kampala Declaration and Agenda for Global Action to help guide the response to the health workforce crisis.

While encouraged by the increased commitment shown by the G8, GHWA urges the leaders follow up with increased and new investment to ensure promises on the health workforce are turned into reality.

The world is facing a critical shortage of over 4.3 million health workers, including a lack of at least 1.5 million in Africa. Health workers provide essential, life-saving interventions such as care for pregnant women, safe childbirth, vaccinations and access to services for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Solving the health workforce crisis will require billions in additional funding. There is no doubt that without prompt action, the shortage will worsen, demand for care will continue to grow and health systems will be weakened even further.

"The G8 has taken significant and necessary steps today. We applaud these, and recent concrete commitments made by the governments of Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States to improve health worker coverage levels across countries in Africa. But there is still an urgent need for continued leadership on this issue," said GHWA Executive Director, Dr Mubashar Sheikh.

" The G8 have stated in Japan that health workers are the cornerstone of reliable health systems. Investment must now follow. Global commitments such as the Millennium Development Goals will remain a dream unless action is taken immediately to increase numbers of health workers and ensure their retention. We cannot afford to wait any longer," he added.

Estimates indicate that G8 countries will need to invest tens of billions of additional US dollars in strengthening the health workforce in all 57 countries identified as having 'critical shortages'[1] if the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved by 2015. In Africa alone, an estimated US$2.6 billion per year in added funding is needed to train 1.5 million health workers. The costs of employment would be additional to this[2].

GHWA welcomes the G8 commitment of support for the efforts of the Alliance, partner countries and other partners in helping countries develop robust health workforce plans, and effective health policies. GHWA also strongly supports the G8 emphasis on continued leadership of World Health Organization in the development of a voluntary code of practice regarding ethical recruitment of health workers. All these components are essential elements for progress, as laid out in the Kampala Declaration and Agenda for Global Action.

The Alliance partnership will continue to support countries in their responses to the crisis to achieve the goal of access for all to skilled and motivated health workers as part of a functioning health system.

Beth Magne-Watts ¦ GHWA ¦ Tel: +41 22 791 5074 / +41 79 203 3176 ¦ Email:

[1]World Health Report 2006: Working together for health. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2006

[2]Scaling Up, Saving Lives: Report of the GHWA Task Force on Scaling Up Education and Training for Health Workers. Geneva: GHWA/World Health Organization; 2008