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Africa faces ‘dramatic’ physician shortage by 2015, cautions UN health agency

Africa faces ‘dramatic’ physician shortage by 2015, cautions UN health agency

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Africa faces a “dramatic” shortage of physicians by the year 2015, according to a new study made public today.

It is projected that there will be nearly 13 million doctors by then, a figure that will meet demand and will exceed the target of achieving the benchmark of having 80 per cent of all live births covered by a skilled attendant.

But given the imbalances in physician distribution, Africa will face a scarcity of care, WHO said, with 255,000 doctors in 2015, which is 167,000 fewer than needed to meet the birth coverage goal.

The study notes that in 2004, Africa carried nearly one quarter of the world’s disease burden with only 2 per cent of global physician supply and less than 1 per cent of health expenditures worldwide. Similarly, South-East Asia bore 29 per cent of the global disease burden, with 11 per cent of the world’s supply of doctors and 1 per cent of health expenditures.

Meanwhile, the Americas region, with 10 per cent of the world’s disease burden, accounted for half of the world’s health expenditures and one fifth of all physicians.

Hefty increases in health-care investment and robust policies are essential to boost the number of doctors in Africa, WHO said. “Given the disproportionate burden of disease in this region, policies for increasing the supply of physicians are urgently needed to stem projected shortages,” according to the study.