WHO: world needs 6 million nurses to cover ‘alarming shortage’

Ahmed Al Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said the coronavirus crisis made World Health Day 2020 even more meaningful

epa08347531 Nurses in full protective suits line up to enter the treatment ward for novel coronavirus patients at the Dongsan Hospital in Daegu, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, South Korea, 07 April 2020.  EPA/YONHAP SOUTH KOREA OUT
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The World Health Organisation has called for six million more nurses worldwide by 2030 to deal with an “alarming shortage” of staff globally.

Nurses account for 59 per cent of the world’s healthcare staff. The nursing workforce worldwide is currently 27.9 million, an increase of 4.7m since 2013, but the WHO said more needs to be done to encourage and support people into the profession.

“If we do not strengthen the nursing and midwifery workforce, healthcare systems will be unable to provide efficient and quality care," WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ahmed Al Mandhari said.

“I call on member states to accelerate efforts and invest in nurses and midwives to address the alarming shortage in this vital health workforce, which is compromising the efficiency and quality of health services in our region.”

Dr Al Mandhari made the comments on World Health Day 2020, for which the theme is nursing and midwifery.

The day of celebration on Tuesday marked the release of the first State of the World’s Nursing Report, which recommended member states to invest in the “massive acceleration” of nursing education, creating at least 6 million new nursing jobs by 2030, elevate nurses to decision-making roles and include members of the profession in policy formation.

The countries that require trained nursing staff the most are in poorer countries in Africa, southeast Asia, the Middle East and parts of South America. There is also a concern that richer countries will rely on the Philippines and India to "supply the world with nurses", which could lead to significant shortages in India, International Council of Nursing chief executive Howard Catton said.

The report also said nursing continued to be female-dominated and states' health services should recruit more men.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has infected over 1.3 million people and killed over 75,000, is a stark reminder of the importance of nursing staff, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"Nurses are the backbone of any health system," he said.

"Today, many nurses find themselves on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19," he said and called for ensuring "the support they need to keep the world healthy".

The tributes came as medical staff around the world protested against ill treatment and lack of protection during the outbreak.

Medical staff in Greece held a protest on Tuesday against working conditions and a lack of human resources and equipment in public hospitals during the pandemic. In Pakistan, more than 50 doctors were arrested on Monday in the southwestern city of Quetta, after rallying near the city's main hospital.

A host of public figures tweeted messages of thanks to nurses and other healthcare staff to mark World Health Day, including the British royal family, European Council President Charles Michel and Indian actor Mahesh Babu.

Messages also reminded people to stay home as the virus continues to spread.