OP-ED

Why Govt should strongly invest in Nursing and Midwifery

Author: Lilian Nuwabaine Luyima

There is a worldwide shortage of health workers, in particular nurses and midwives, who represent more than 50% of the current shortage in health workers.

File Photo: Lilian Nuwabaine Luyima (Photo/DailyExpress)

Approximately 27 million men and women make up the global nursing and midwifery workforce, accounting for nearly 50% of the global health workforce. There is a worldwide shortage of health workers, in particular nurses and midwives, who represent more than 50% of the current shortage in health workers. The largest needs-based shortages of nurses and midwives are in low- and middle-income countries including Uganda.

For all countries to reach Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health and well-being, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the world will need an additional 9 million nurses and midwives by the year 2030. As of 12th/May/2020, the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council (UNMC) had a total of 70,167 registered nurses and midwives, however, only 48,000 of these are in employment and serve a population of 48million Ugandans.

International Day of the Midwife (IDM) 2022 was observed on May 5th under the theme 100 Years of Progress. In Uganda, the celebrations were made in Kabale district, south-western Uganda. The observance was to bring the global midwife community together to advocate for investment in quality midwifery care around the world, improving sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health in the process. Additionally, International Nurses Day (IND) 2022 will be observed on May 12th under the theme Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health, focusing on the need to protect, support and invest in the nursing profession to strengthen health systems around the world. In Uganda, the celebrations will be in Kamuli district, eastern Uganda

With this year’s themes, achieving health for all will depend on there being sufficient numbers of well-trained and educated, regulated and well-supported nurses and midwives, who receive pay and recognition commensurate with the services and quality of care that they provide. Nurses and midwives play a critical role in health promotion, disease prevention and delivering primary and community care among other essential roles. They also provide care in emergency settings and are very key to the achievement of universal health coverage.

Nurses and midwives are central to Primary Health Care and are often the first and sometimes the only health professional that people see and the quality of their initial assessment, care and treatment is vital. In Uganda, this happens mainly at lower health facilities of II, III and IV. Nurses and midwives are also part of their local community sharing its culture, strengths and vulnerabilities, and can shape and deliver effective interventions to meet the needs of patients, families and communities. 

Therefore, investing in nurses and midwives is good value for money. The report of the UN High Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth concluded that investments in education and job creation in the health and social sectors result in a triple return of improved health outcomes, global health security, and inclusive economic growth.

I, therefore, recommend the government of Uganda through the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Public Service, and Health service Commission to support the education of adequate nurses and midwives with competencies to meet population health needs by availing scholarships, create jobs, manage migration, and recruit and retain nurses and midwives where they are most needed. Lastly, I recommend the strengthening of nursing and midwifery leadership throughout health and academic systems and ensuring nurses and midwives are supported, respected, protected, motivated, and equipped to safely and optimally contribute in their service delivery settings.

Lilian Nuwabaine Luyima is a Midwife & Women’s’ Health Specialist working with Aga Khan University as the CPD Coordinator & is the Heroes in Health Award Winner-Midwife of the year 2021

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