World Health Day 2020: the (current) state of the world and our nurses

Today, on World Health Day, and in the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the first ever State of the World’s Nursing Report 2020 has been launched. The WHO and partners call for urgent investment in nurses. The report comes at a crucial time when global leaders are focused on achieving Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals. Also, with the current COVID-19 pandemic affecting lives all over the globe, the report adds an extra dimension to this day – as health workers worldwide, including nurses and midwives, are working tirelessly to save lives.  

The State of the World’s Nursing Report describes how the nursing workforce will help deliver Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and highlight areas for policy development for the upcoming 3-5 years. The past months, health workers like nurses have also been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing not only their visibility but also boosting the awareness of their crucial role in strong health systems.

‘Nurses are the backbone of any health system. Today, many nurses find themselves on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19,’ said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General. ‘This report is a stark reminder of the unique role they play, and a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy.’

The report, by the World Health Organization (WHO)  in partnership with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and Nursing Now, reveals that today, there are just under 28 million nurses worldwide. Between 2013 and 2018, nursing numbers increased by 4.7 million. But this still leaves a global shortfall of 5.9 million – with the greatest gaps found in countries in Africa, South East Asia and the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region as well as some parts of Latin America.

COVID-19 proof health systems have sufficient, trained health workers and nurses
Resilient, strong health systems that are equipped and adequately prepared to handle epidemics and pandemics are built on a health workforce that is well-trained, supported and sufficient in number. ‘Epidemics are often illustrative of underlying problems, and mainly are the result of many years of a lack of effective investment in strong and resilient healthcare,’ says our director Mariëlle Bemelmans in her opinion article on the need for global solidarity and the COVID-19 crisis.

‘The report couldn’t have come at a timelier moment, even though we would have preferred a world without COVID-19. But as it stands, we sincerely hope that the report will help catalyze not just emergency funding for health workers worldwide, including nurses and midwives, but also sustained investments over the years to come, from international financial institutions and development partners alike, so that in 2030, Universal Health Coverage is a fact.’

Download the State of the World’s Nursing Report 2020

Read more on health workers:

COVID-19 shows why global solidarity is needed (article)
Healthcare: a vital profession (blog)
The answer to pandemics? Strong public health systems (blog)
The right to health worldwide (article)
The warm heart of Africa (interviews with health workers in Malawi) (blog)
Our work on Human Resources for Health (programme page)

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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