In many countries in Africa, a shortage of qualified medical professionals has been a barrier to broad and equitable access to quality health care. Expanding public health services is vital to addressing the widespread incidence of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases on the continent and reducing maternal and child mortality.
To help meet the health care needs of today's African communities and families, the United States recently announced the latest in a series of initiatives to improve the education of nurses and midwives. A health workers training program in Malawi will receive $4.32 million to support the training of 550 nurses and other health professionals. The effort also includes technical assistance to the Southern African nation's nursing colleges to upgrade teaching programs and address key gaps in faculty.
The U.S. nursing education partnership with Malawi complements the nation's ongoing program to train new health workers. There are now 1.44 health workers per 1,000 people in Malawi, up from 0.87 per 1,000 in 2004 – a 66 percent increase over that period.
The new grant for nursing education in Malawi follows similar efforts in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Lesotho. Over the next four years the U.S. will commit $33 million for those five countries, with the aim of strengthening the quality and capacity of nursing and midwifery education institutions. This in turn will increase the numbers of badly needed skilled nurses and midwives, and will be accompanied by the development of strategies to retain those workers.
Supporting such human resources for health is part of our nation's commitment under President Barack Obama's Global Health Initiative to ensure that the U.S. investment in Africa's health sector brings comprehensive benefits to the lives of people there.