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World Health Day: How Can Sub Saharan Africa Have 25 Percent of the Disease Burden But Only 3 Percent of the World’s Trained Health Workers?

Doctors on Call for Service Foundation

On World Health Day, April 7, think about this: Sub Saharan Africa has 11 percent of the world’s population, bears 25 percent of the disease burden in the world, but has only 3 percent of the world’s trained health workers.  Sub Saharan Africa has about 18 medical doctors for every 100,000 individuals. The United States has 270!*

While many types of health workers are needed for a functioning health system, trained medical doctors are key.  But each year, Sub Saharan Africa produces a small number of graduates from a small number of medical schools.  Many of these medical graduates emigrate to other countries where they are better paid and have better working conditions.

On World Health Day, we focus on the severe shortage of trained health professionals, particularly doctors, in Sub Saharan Africa and highlight several Aid for Africa members working to improve it.

Doctors on Call for Service Foundation, an Aid for Africa member, helps African physicians upgrade their skills through their Residency in Family Medicine Masters program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  In this program physicians receive training in patient diagnosis and treatment. The Foundation arranges for volunteer physicians from abroad to come to rural Africa and to lead seminars for physicians on the latest medical techniques. By helping African doctors learn new medical techniques and develop relationships with non-African doctors, African-trained doctors are more likely to continue their work on the continent and not leave Africa to find it.

In Tanzania, the Touch Foundation works to increase the number of physicians, nurses, lab technicians and pharmacists.  This Aid for Africa member has helped renew and expand a medical university in western Tanzania.  One hundred and fifty doctors have already been trained and currently some 600 students attend medical school.  In addition more than 2,700  medical professionals have graduated or are receiving training thanks to Touch.  Working with the Tanzanian government, Touch also helps to expand health programs and make them more efficient. They are enabling urban healthcare workers to spend time in rural health clinics, where the need is greater.

Almost half of Aid for Africa’s member organizations are working to improve health care systems and the delivery of health care in Sub Saharan Africa.  Learn more about their work here.

*Learn more about these statistics and the state of medical schools in Sub Saharan Africa at