Three years into a pandemic, health systems are severely strained, especially since health workers have been lost to infection, ‘long Covid’, burnout and migration. The world is facing a projected 40 million health worker shortage, which will be worsened by the ‘great resignation’ of health workers, especially women, currently underway. Significant numbers are planning to leave the health workforce due to lack of support, low pay, unsafe conditions, feeling marginalized in decision making with little acknowledgement of their expertise.
A regional survey in sub-Saharan Africa found only 1 in 8 health workers were fully vaccinated. Women in Global Health’s own global survey found that only 14% of women health workers had adequately fitted Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) since PPE is designed for the male body. Simultaneously, women health workers in low and middle income countries are carrying the burden of underpaid or unpaid work within the health sectors as well as facing significant challenges, such as lack of access to COVID-19 vaccinations, Personal Protective Equipment and risk of violence and harassment from colleagues and patients. Women health workers have been told they are essential but they feel expendable.
This crisis creates conditions that are exacerbated when additional crises intersect, as it has occured with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an increased number of humanitarian settings across the world. From Afghanistan to Ukraine and Ethiopia, the impact of this double crisis is notable in health systems, particularly on the health workers on the frontlines.
Against this backdrop, Women in Global Health, in collaboration with the Government of France, propose a high-level 90-minute panel event on the sidelines of the 75th World Health Assembly, on 25th May at 8:00-9:30 am EST.