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12 Faces of the Health Workforce Shortage

Here’s something most people don’t know: there is a global shortage of 7.2 million health workers, particularly doctors, nurses, and midwives. We simply don’t have enough of them to go around.

But there’s no doubt that we need them now more than ever. Our population is growing. We’re seeing more unexpected epidemics such as Zika and Ebola flare up in different parts of the globe. And worldwide, our lifespans are getting longer, which means we have more demand for care that addresses our many aging-related ailments.

The World Health Organization and the World Bank predict that to attain universal access to health workers by 2030, we’ll need to train and deploy 40-50 million new health and social care workers globally.

By that time, they say, the shortage could grow to 18 million.

Today is the beginning of World Health Worker Week. Over the next few days, IntraHealth International, the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, and many of our partners will be mobilizing communities, organizations, and policy-makers in support of health workers around the world. It's a time to celebrate the amazing work health workers do, but also to raise awareness about the issues surrounding them that affect us all.

Call your House Representatives to support the bipartisan House Resolution 419.

And you can get involved. Call your House Representatives to support the bipartisan House Resolution 419, led by Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.). The resolution urges greater global attention and support for local frontline health workers and reaffirms their critical role in ending preventable child and maternal deaths, ensuring global health security, achieving an AIDS-free generation, and more.

Or donate to IntraHealth, which focuses on health workers as the key to expanding health care to everyone everywhere.

Now, in honor all those who work to improve health and well-being around the world, say hello to 12 health workers who work hard for us every day, despite a daunting shortage:

Anagretha Gasper Cossam, a nurse midwife in Tanzania. Medical circumcision services there rely on a predominantly female nursing workforce. She talks about the ups and downs of providing this HIV risk-reducing service.

Doa’a, a first responder on the front lines of the Yemen humanitarian crisis. She blogs about the unfolding violence there as she struggles to save her people—and survive. 

Babacar Gueye, a military-trained physician and public health expert in Senegal. He remembers 1996 well, as it was the year of one of West Africa’s worst meningitis outbreaks. 

Agnes Masagwayi, a senior clinical health officer who runs an HIV clinic in Uganda. She’s a strong believer that all clients who come in for HIV counseling, testing, or treatment should also receive family planning information and services.

Priscilla Ng’ang’a, a nurse who offers cervical cancer screening in Kenya. The service is crucial, particularly for women who live with HIV. 

Dayo Olakulehin, a doctor-turned-entrepreneur whose med-tech startup produced the D-Box. (You can meet Dr. Olakulehin in person and hear all about his invention at SwitchPoint 2016.) 

Clara Luz Orellana, a nurse who oversees 250 nurses and support staff in a Guatemalan hospital. “Often it’s just a matter of wanting to do it right, even if no one is watching,” she says.

Joseph Otieno Owira, a clinical officer in Kenya. Not only does he provide health care, he also contributes to the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of their countries. 

Riak Ajak Panther, who went from lost boy to HIV data guru in South Sudan. Civil war drove him from his home when he was just a child, but now he’s back and helping the government track and manage HIV data like never before.

Richard Kiplagat Rutto, a nurse who keeps health services running in Kokwanyo Village, Kenya. Clients come to Kokwanyo Dispensary for HIV treatment, family planning, maternal care, and more. And they all see Nurse Richard.

Ally Shaban, a technologist in Tanzania, where the health IT community is getting stronger. Open source technologies have turned traditional tech transfer on its head. Now Tanzania is reaping the benefits. Sughra, a community midwife in Pakistan. Pakistan is a tough place to work in family planning, but Sughra believes it’s becoming more popular. She estimates that 40% of women of reproductive age there are now using contraception.