WHO renews its alert on safeguards for the recruitment of health workers

The World Health Organization (WHO) today released an updated WHO list for health workforce support and safeguards 2023, identifying 55 countries as vulnerable to the availability of health workers needed to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030.

The impact of COVID-19 and widespread disruptions to healthcare services have led to a rapid acceleration in the international recruitment of healthcare workers. For countries losing health personnel to international migration, this could negatively impact health systems and hamper their progress towards achieving UHC and health security.

Of these 55 countries, 37 are in the WHO African Region, eight in the Western Pacific Region, six in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, three in the South-East Asia Region and one in the Americas. Eight countries have been newly added to the WHO Health Workforce Support and Safeguards 2023 list since it was first published in 2020.

“Health workers are the backbone of any health system, yet 55 countries with some of the most fragile health systems in the world do not have enough of them and many are losing their health workers to international migration” , said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO. . “WHO is working with these countries to help them strengthen their health workforce, and we call on all countries to adhere to the provisions of the WHO Health Workforce Support and Safeguard List.” The list should be used to inform advocacy, policy dialogue at all levels, and funding efforts in support of health workforce education and employment in these countries.

Countries included in the 2023 WHO health workforce support and protection list have a UHC service coverage index below 55 and a health workforce density below the global median: 49 doctors, nurses and midwife per 10,000 people. These countries need priority support for health workforce development and health system strengthening, as well as additional safeguards that limit active international recruitment.

The WHO Health Workforce Support and Protection List 2023 does not prohibit international recruitment, but recommends that health worker migration agreements between governments:

  • be informed by analysis of the health labor market and the adoption of measures to ensure an adequate supply of health workers in the countries of origin;
  • engage ministries of health in the negotiation and implementation of agreements; And
  • specify the benefits of the arrangement’s healthcare system for countries of origin and destination.

The WHO also recommends that these safeguards be extended to all low- and middle-income countries.

Implementing the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel (WHO Global Code) can ensure that the international movement of health workers is managed ethically, supports the rights and welfare of migrant health workers and maintains health service delivery goals.

The 2023 update builds on the report of the WHO Expert Advisory Group on the Relevance and Effectiveness of the WHO Global Code. WHO will update the list every three years, with the next update due in 2026.

This issue will be discussed at the upcoming Fifth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, which will examine the policy solutions, investments and multisectoral partnerships needed to address health and care workforce challenges to advance health systems. towards achieving UHC and health. security. The outcomes of the Forum will inform the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on UHC in September 2023.