Tanzania's First National HRH Conference Produces Partnerships and Proposals

Tanzania HRH Conference

IntraHealth President and CEO, Pape Gaye, giving a
keynote address

On September 3–5, 2013, IntraHealth International in collaboration with the Government of Tanzania convened more than 300 participants for the country’s first National Human Resources for Health (HRH) Conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Senior-level stakeholders from the public, faith-based, and private sectors came together to share experiences, identify key priorities for Tanzania’s forthcoming National HRH Strategic Plan (2014–2019), accelerate the implementation of existing policies, and develop recommendations to serve as a platform for the national commitments Tanzania will declare at the Third Global Forum for HRH in Recife, Brazil, November 10-13, 2013.

Jakaya Kikwete, president of Tanzania, opened the conference by reflecting on the importance of stakeholder partnership in reversing Tanzania’s acute shortage of health workers. Kikwete specifically called upon the ministries responsible for developing human resources for health to enhance cooperation, coordination, and effective ways to address the daunting challenges facing the health sector.

Tanzania is one of 57 countries facing an acute shortage of health workers, according to the World Health Organization. This shortage is exacerbated by a stark imbalance in the distribution of health workers between urban and rural areas. More than 74% of the country’s mainland population lives in rural areas, yet health workers remain concentrated near urban centers. Health workforce issues ranging from staff shortages to inadequate training and management to turnover in underserved communities jeopardize the availability and quality of health services and hinder Tanzania’s progress toward attaining the Millennium Development Goals. But the Government of Tanzania has been doing something about it.

Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare committed to strengthening the country’s health workforce through key national strategic policies and is in the final year of implementing its current national HRH strategic plan. Fortifying a national workforce does not happen overnight, and in a country where more than a third of health services are delivered through private for-profit and faith-based health facilities, it requires effective partnerships marked by open and continual communication among stakeholders, government officials, and civil society.

During his remarks, IntraHealth’s president and CEO, Pape Gaye, commended Tanzania for being among the first of the 57 crisis countries to invest in strengthening its health workforce, for the progress it has made, and for embracing the expectations and hard work that this visibility and ownership demand. 

It was clear from technical discussions and the willingness of participants to be open about both successes and challenges that Tanzania is indeed laying the foundation for a strong health workforce system. The country has nearly doubled its production of new health workers since 2005, and while high job vacancy rates still plague Tanzania’s health facilities, those rates are on the decline.

The conference showcased the need for stronger partnerships and more senior-level dialogue across several central ministries, including the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Prime Minister's Office of Regional Administration and Local Governments, and the President's Office of Public Service Management. All are involved in aspects of planning, financing, recruiting, deploying, and managing the health workers serving Tanzania’s citizenry.  

One key recommendation that resulted from the conference is that Tanzania more strongly coordinate and align its HRH priorities across these four key ministries, including identifying an entity accountable for tracking decisions made during inter-ministerial discussions and developing a transparent way to communicate decisions back to the national HRH Technical Working Group and other related technical task forces.

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare worked hand-in-hand with the Benjamin William Mkapa HIV/AIDS Foundation (BMAF) and IntraHealth International to organize the conference using a transparent and participatory planning process. BMAF and IntraHealth co-lead the US Agency for International Development-funded Tanzania Human Resource Capacity Project. IntraHealth’s Mkama Mwijarubi contributed reporting for this news item.