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News in Brief 14 March 2023

News in Brief 14 March 2023

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

55 countries face a health worker crunch linked to COVID-19: WHO

No less than 55 countries today are struggling with serious health worker shortages as they continue to seek better paid opportunities in wealthier nations that have stepped up efforts to recruit them amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

According to the UN agency, African nations have been worst-hit by the phenomenon, with 37 countries on the continent facing health worker shortages that threaten their chances of achieving universal health care by 2030 – a key Sustainable Development Goals pledge.

The actions of wealthy countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) come under scrutiny in the WHO alert, among other regions.

With more, here’s Dr Jim Campbell, Director of WHO’s Health Workforce team:                      

“Within Africa it’s a very vibrant economy that is creating new opportunities. The Gulf States have t  raditionally been reliant on international personnel and then some of the OECD high-income countries have really accelerated their recruitment and employment to respond to the pandemic and respond to the loss of lives, the infections, the absences of workers during the pandemic.

To help countries protect their vulnerable healthcare systems, the UN health agency has issued an updated health workforce support and safeguards list, which highlights nations with low numbers of qualified staff.

Mechanisms also exist for governments or other individuals to notify WHO if they are “worried” about the behaviour of recruiters.

More than one in two Syrians is food insecure, warns UN food agency

More than one in two Syrians is food insecure and a further 2.9 million risk sliding into hunger, UN humanitarians warned on Tuesday.

In an alert, the World Food Programme, WFP, also warned that malnutrition is on the rise in Syria, with stunting and maternal malnutrition rates “reaching levels never seen before”.

Kenn Crossley, WFP Country Director in Syria, said that in 12 years of war, the Syrian people had suffered “bombardment, displacement, isolation, drought, economic meltdown and now earthquakes of staggering proportions”.

Syrians remain “remarkably resilient, but there’s only so much that people can take,” Mr. Crossley warned, just as a funding crunch threatens to curtail WFP’s work.

To keep aid flowing, the UN agency urgently requires a minimum of $450 million to help more than 5.5 million people across Syria until the end of the year.

Refugee agency launches new appeal for displaced Afghans and host countries

To Afghanistan, where displaced communities and the neighbouring countries that have taken them in, need help urgently, many of them women and children, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has said.

In an appeal to support 7.9 million people in Afghanistan and the region, UNHCR issued a request on Tuesday for $613 million.

This will cover the basic requirements of Afghans sheltering in Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

These countries host a total of 8.2 million Afghans, including over two million registered refugees.

Many have been in the region for decades, mostly in Iran and Pakistan, which the UN agency explained had accommodated Afghans generously, offering them access to public services at great cost.

An estimated 1.6 million have arrived in the region from Afghanistan since 2021.

“Financial support remains critical to stave off widespread hunger, disease, malnutrition and, ultimately, death,” UNHCR said.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • More than one in two Syrians now food insecure – WFP
  • 55 countries face unsustainable health worker crunch linked to COVID-19
  • UNHCR launches new appeal for displaced Afghans and host countries


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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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