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Fifty-seven Nations Face Serious Shortages of Health Care Workers

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Development Report.

The World Health Organization says fifty-seven nations in southern Africa and Southeast Asia are facing a serious shortage of health care workers. This crisis is affecting how governments fight diseases and improve health. The W.H.O says more than four million additional doctors, nurses and other health workers are urgently needed to improve the situation.

The warning came in a new W.H.O. report released on April seventh -- World Health Day. The report says the health care crisis is most severe in southern Africa. The continent has eleven percent of the world’s population, but only three percent of the world’s health care workers.

The report warns that the ability of poor countries to provide important life-saving services is in danger. In addition, many patients are not able to get the treatments they need for diseases like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

W.H.O. official Timothy Evans says part of the problem is caused by rich nations that offer high-paying jobs to doctors and nurses from poor countries. In addition, Mister Evans says few trained health care professionals are working where they are needed most. Those in poor countries usually work in cities instead of farming areas.

The W.H.O. report provides a ten-year plan to deal with the crisis. It calls for national leadership and new policies for health workers. It also urges more international assistance and foreign aid. The report says that nations facing the most serious shortages must increase health care spending.

Effective use of public money for health care was also the subject of an international conference this month in Beijing, China. Researchers presented three books that describe cost-effective answers to health problems in developing countries. The books recommended simple things. They include speed barriers on roads to help reduce the number of traffic accidents. Another idea is to give aspirin to people to help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The books are designed for policy makers, health program supervisors and aid groups.

The Disease Control Priorities Project published the books. They are free to anyone with a computer. To learn more, visit the project’s web site at A link is provided at

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. I’m Steve Ember.