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Talk Action: We debate the health worker crisis

The first Talk Action debate got off to a sensational start last week as our expert panel debated ‘Why it’s Time to End the Global Health Worker Crisis’. 

Just days before the United Nations General Assembly met, listeners tuned in to hear the discussion and about Save the Children’s campaigning and advocacy work on health workers. The panel was made up of:

  • Frances Day-Stirk, Royal College of Midwives and President of International Confederation of Midwives.
  • Dr Sima Barmania, medical doctor specialising in global and community health and blogger for The Independent. Read her blog post on health workers
  • Kathryn Rawe, co-author of our new report on health workers, No Child out of Reach, and Save the Children Policy Adviser
  • Louise Holly, Save the Children Policy Adviser and lead on our advocacy at the UN General Assembly.

The debate was introduced by Brendan Cox, Save the Children’s Advocacy Director, and chaired by Patrick Watt, Policy & Resarch Director.

Governments must act

The panellists each set out why more investment in health workers is urgently needed. In Afghanistan, for example, there’s just one doctor per 4,762 people, compared with one doctor per 365 people in the UK (World Health Statistics 2011).

The panellists outlined the significant commitment needed from world leaders at the Summit in New York this week to ensure the 3.5 million health worker shortage gap is closed.

“If midwives work in a country where there are no referral systems, from one day to the other they don’t know if they are going to get paid, their security isn’t assured, it wouldn’t be surprising that many of them would leave the system,” said Frances Day-Stirk. 

“Many midwives still stay in the system despite the problems, but if they do get an opportunity many midwives and nurses will either go and do other jobs within the country or leave the country. I think there has been a great deal of talk and a lot of commitment made over the years but we have only four years left to 2015 [the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals].” 

“We really have to galvanise our actions as far as possible to put pressure and influence the people who make decisions. Without government commitment none of this will happen.”

To listen to the rest of the Talk Action debate.

Did governments act at the Summit?

Yesterday, countries pledged their commitments to investing in health workers.  Civil society and non-govenmental organisations also set out their commitments.

For example, Management Sciences for Health announced a five-year $200-million  commitment to improve health systems and family planning services in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti. 

Check out the full list of commitments made at the Summit.

Read this blog on the outcome of the Summit.

Our next debate

The next Talk Action will be in mid November with a focus on Afghanistan. Keep an eye on our campaign events calendar for further details.

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