News / Africa

New Coalition Promotes Investment in Health Workers

Health worker (right) walks with a mother and her child in Satiguila, Mali.
Health worker (right) walks with a mother and her child in Satiguila, Mali.
Joe DeCapua

Sixteen major non-governmental organizations have launched a new initiative to add one million health care workers in developing countries.

The new Frontline Health Workers Coalition says training more community-level workers is the most cost effective way to save lives, speed progress on global health threats and promote U.S. economic and strategic interests.

“Around the world, addressing the kind of basic killers of children, for example, pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and the problems that parents face, including moms who die in pregnancy and childbirth, women and men affected by HIV/AIDS. All of those people need one absolute thing to improve their condition. And that is having a health worker close to them,” said coalition chair Mary Beth Powers.

Powers is also the head of Save the Children’s Newborn and Child Survival Campaign.

“The goal is really to put a million of these frontline health workers on the ground in the next four years by the end of the period where we’re measuring progress against the Millennium Development Goals. And we’re asking the U.S. government to contribute one quarter of those, which is 250,000 additional health workers where they’re most needed,” she said.

The U.S. is already heavily involved in training health workers through its development agency, USAID, and the National Institutes of Health. Training and funding would also come from major corporations and other donor countries.

Saving lives

Powers said frontline workers include community health workers, midwives, village pharmacists, physicians’ assistants, nurses and doctors who work in community-level clinics. She said they save lives.

“Every year, for example, 7 and a half million children die, many from preventable or treatable causes. And a million health workers reaching those children could dramatically reduce those deaths each year,” she said.

She added they’re a big reason why child mortality has declined 37 percent in the last 20 years.

Angela Nguku is a midwife in Kenya and coordinator for AMREF, the African Medical and Research Foundation. She said training more health care workers would have a major beneficial effect in her country.

“We are going to be saving lives. We are going to be stopping the disabilities and the deaths that we have seen. And at the end of the day we are going to see families united, children going to school, children growing up to maturity because they’re not going to die because of diseases that could be prevented if we had health workers. And we are going to see more economically empower nations because if I’m healthy, I’m strong. Then I’m able to work and be productive for the nation,” she said.


Nguku works in many of Kenya’s hard-pressed areas, such as Turkana. That northern region, which is normally dry, was baked and parched by a long, severe drought. Sometimes, she said, she feels overwhelmed by a community’s medical needs.

“I just watch and see helplessly because I am attending to this particular mother and there’s a child there convulsing because they have malaria or pneumonia. I have a mother coming for immunization maybe for tetanus because she’s pregnant or even another mother who’s bleeding who has delivered, but I cannot leave this particular one. Sometimes I wish I had extra hands to attend to this particular mother, but I’m not able to do so because I am the only one in the facility and they have so many patients waiting for me,” she said.

Nguku said more health workers would help Kenya reach the Millennium Development Goals and help the country grow in general.

Frontline Health Workers Coalition chair Mary Beth Powers describes those community health workers as heroes.

“They really walk the walk. And I think I’m personally, as a public health person, inspired by the service that these people provide to their communities often without a great deal of thanks, often with very low salaries or sometimes as volunteers,” she said.

The coalition includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Family Care International, the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care and RESULTS.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs