Milbank Memorial Fund  |  June 9, 2011

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The world is experiencing a serious human resource shortage in the health sector, which the World Health Assembly calls “a crisis in health.” The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4.3 million more health workers are required to meet the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—a global compact to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat AIDS, malaria, and other diseases by 2015. But even this alarmingly high figure significantly underestimates the global need for human resources because the WHO only accounts for shortages in 57 countries that miss the minimalist target of 2.28 doctors, nurses, and midwives per 1,000 in the population. These 57 countries have “critical shortages,” but the WHO estimate does not take into account the shortages of health workers experienced in countries who provide services in excess of basic immunizations and childbirth attendance. The agency does not factor in the shortages that emerging and developed countries claim to be experiencing. Nor does it factor in the marked human resource disparities among countries and regions, which reveal that shortages in low-income countries are actually much worse.

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