During World Health Worker Week 2020 (5-11 April), the African Development Bank joins the global community to celebrate and recognise the contributions of health workers, including nurses and midwives, on the frontlines of the ongoing international response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The week's theme Leaders on the Front Line recognizes that health workers often put themselves and their families at great risk as they work to save and improve lives. The ongoing pandemic provides further incentive to prioritize investments in health workers. Africa needs well trained health workers that can respond effectively during pandemics and other health crises.
"From nutrition to maternal care and sanitation to countless other interventions, health workers are at the frontlines in the prevention of - and defense against - health crises facing communities and governments across the continent," said Jennifer Blanke, the Bank's Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development. "Our support to health workers is even more crucial at this time as we fight to mitigate the impact of coronavirus in Africa," she added.
World Health Worker Week 2020 also underscores the need to extend greater opportunities for leadership to frontline health workers--particularly women, who make up over 70% of the global health workforce.
Yesterday, on World Health Day, we recognized nurses and midwives specifically among all health workers, for their vital role in advancing national and global health targets relating to universal health coverage, maternal and child health, and infectious and non-communicable diseases. And yet in 2018, Africa had 1.06 nurses and midwives for every 1,000 people. Given the continent's surging population, this is far short of what is required to achieve universal health coverage as well as health-related Sustainable Development Goals.
As COVID-19 continues to threaten lives, livelihoods and health systems across Africa, the Bank has begun to deploy financial resources to assist African countries in fighting the pandemic. Last week the Bank approved a $2 million grant for the WHO Africa region to use in bolstering the capacity of 41 African countries on infection prevention, testing and case management.
The Bank will continue to leverage its financial resources and its expertise to promote the development of healthcare workers across the continent. And as the global community celebrates World Health Worker Week, the Bank urges communities and governments across Africa to recognize the extraordinary service and achievements of nurses and midwives in Africa and across the globe. Investing in their education, training and employment must be a development priority for all countries.
Olufemi Terry, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank