New report tracks commitments to advance the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health and urges for increased investment in health workers

Two years after the launch of the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health (the Global Strategy), countries and global stakeholders acknowledge more than ever that an inadequate system of health workers is one of the major constraints to improving women’s and children’s health, states a new report, released by Alliance member - the Partnership for Maternal and Newborn Child Health (PMNCH). The report, commissioned by the independent Expert Review Group reviews progress made towards implementing the commitments to advance the Global Strategy. A section of the report tracks the progress of HRH initiatives and calls for increased attention and resource allocation to interventions, such as skilled birth attendances and urges countries to address not only the critical human resources shortages but also geographical disparities, retention problems, low motivation and inadequate skills.

The report tracks and highlights several success and positive development of existing commitments:

  • The government of Liberia introduced a new policy on HRH and Health Financing in 2011, and made medical education free with a minimum monthly stipend for students.
  • The Ministry of Health in Nepal is in the process of endorsing a Human Resource Strategy to alleviate challenges related to the management of health workers. Each year, 700 nursing staff are trained in clinical skills at various levels, and around 500 health workers receive refresher training on reproductive health. 3071 skilled birth attendants had been trained as of January 2012.
  • Johnson & Johnson are tackling the critical shortage of health workers in Ethiopia
  • In Guinea-Bissau, more than 90% of midwives have been trained in emergency obstetric care.
  • In Niger, 535 medical doctors and 1100 midwives and nurses have been recruited.

The report suggests that the Global Strategy has led to increased attention being given to the training and recruitment of skilled health workers, particularly skilled birth attendants. However, the lack of qualified personnel is currently still perceived as a significant barrier to implementation. The shortage of health workers is not only true for service delivery but also for other aspects of the health system, such as monitoring and evaluation and research.

Other common problems identified include the environments in which the health workers operate - insufficient motivation and retention due to low salaries and difficult work conditions, particularly in rural and hard-to-reach areas. Some respondents said there were not enough training institutions, and that uneven distribution of those that existed hampered adequate enrolment and training of health workers (e.g. Liberia).

The problems of human resources were mentioned extensively, not only by implementing countries but also by donors, NGOs and private sector respondents, because the unavailability of health workers limits their ability to implement initiatives.

PMNCH will be partnering closely with the Alliance for the 3rd Global Forum on Human Resources for Health to underscore further the synergies between MNCH and HRH.