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As of 2013, there was a global shortage of 17 million health workers who could provide essential primary health care services. The highest shortage of workers is felt in Africa and South-East Asia. WHO projects that by 2030, there will still be a huge deficit, estimated at ~14 million workers. In Africa, closing the projected gap of nearly 1 million doctors by 2030 would require increased investment into the capacity of medical schools at an estimated cost of ~$20 billion for construction alone. That would be an economically daunting endeavor, with limited feasibility.

While supply of health services is a major barrier to health care access, there are also demand challenges, high levels of poverty being the main contributor. For example, in Kenya, 21% of the population did not seek medical care in 2013, due to unaffordability. Further, ~6% of households at the time were at risk of falling into poverty as a result of health care expenditures depleting household savings. And the situation is only likely to worsen with the rise in poor people in Africa. According to the World Bank, there is a steady growth in the number of poor people, with the most optimistic scenario showing an increase from about 280 million people in 1990 to 330 million poor in 2012.

 

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Investment in Community Health Workers, a Necessity, Not an Option

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