There is a lack of health care workers in Ethiopia, particularly in the areas with the highest poverty rates. This has significantly impacted the availability and caliber of health care services, thereby aggravating public health issues. Trading Economics reports, “Physicians (per 1,000 people) in Ethiopia was at 0.1059 in 2020, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.” The country has one of the lowest health care worker-to-population ratios.
Inadequate Wages and Training Institutions
Ethiopia has around 30 recognized medical schools as of 2013. This is not enough to satisfy the needs of the nation in terms of health care. There is also the problem of low wages for medical staff. A 2018 Global Health Action article reports, “In multiple job holding, staff [members] augment basic salaries by engaging in a wide range of academic and non-academic activities within and outside their home institutions. How the practice is viewed and judged varies. Many recognize and understand the underlying reasons.” According to a World Bank report, blaming medical workers for looking elsewhere for additional income is hard considering the low wages they receive.
Inadequate pay and unfavorable working conditions, along with the lack of resources to properly treat patients, are the main factors driving the exodus of health care professionals. According to Reuters, “The doctors identified 117 deaths and dozens of complications, including infections, amputations and kidney failure,” which was due to “shortages of essential medicines and equipment.” These unfortunate trends suggest that increasing pay and benefits, better workspaces and tools and professional training opportunities could encourage qualified health care employees to stay back.
Another strategy could involve encouraging health care professionals who have left the nation to return. According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, an estimated 2,000 Ethiopian medical experts leave the nation every year. A 2012 study reports that “around 53% of medical students hoped to migrate upon graduating, particularly to the United States [U.S.] and Europe.” The government may address this by providing incentives like tax rebates and debt forgiveness programs to medical professionals to return and work in the Ethiopian health care system.
The Ministry of Health of Ethiopia launched the Five-Year National Health Equity Strategy in August 2022, as highlighted in a high-level advocacy workshop organized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Nonhlanhla Diamini, Deputy WHO Representative to Ethiopia, emphasized the organization’s commitment to ensuring the right to good health and well-being for every Ethiopian. The successful implementation of strategies like the National Health Equity Strategy could be crucial in attaining this goal, and WHO is ready to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and other partners to make it a reality.
Despite the challenges of a shortage of health care workers and inadequate resources in the Ethiopian health care system, efforts are underway to address these issues. The launch of the Five-Year National Health Equity Strategy is indicative of the government’s commitment to equitable access to quality health care for all Ethiopians. Collaborative initiatives with organizations like WHO aim to strengthen the health care workforce, improve working conditions and incentivize the return of skilled professionals, ultimately leading to better health outcomes for the population.
– Lorraine Lin