Multi-Sector Partners Take Action to Empower African Female Health Workforce and Improve
Health Outcomes for Familie

Washington, D.C. - September 29, 2021

Global and local stakeholders launched a task force to deploy solutions to scale female health workers and women entrepreneurs in the provision of health services in Africa.  The task force, in conjunction with government and private sector partners, will provide recommendations and models to scale the number of female health workers through innovative financing models. 

“Our responsibility as public health professionals is to both identify a health concern and to deliver a solution,” Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC noted, adding that “medicines, vaccines and diagnostic testing are of no value unless they reach the last mile which is completely dependent on qualified and well-trained healthcare workers.” Lastly, Dr. Nkengasong noted “the Africa CDC is committed to work with member states to help develop well-trained, well-paid health professionals that will provide access to quality care across the entire continent. As trusted members of the community, midwives are in a unique position to move us forward in improving access.” Phyllis Costanza (Head of Social Impact, CEO UBS Optimus Foundation) said, "Covid-19 exacerbated gender disparities which were already unacceptably high before the pandemic." She went on to say, "Global philanthropy must examine how to reduce these inequities by focusing on health and education including increasing the number of qualified female healthcare workers capable of delivering primary care services to underserved populations." She added, "The focus must be on measurable, sustainable and impactful outcomes." Fergus Drake, CEO of Crown Agents echoed these comments by noting “Crown Agents has always prioritized ensuring that medicines, supplies and other products reach the last mile into the hands of qualified healthcare workers.” Drake cautioned that “sustainability is crucial to ensure measurable, long-lasting impact, and there is a need to bring innovation in financing models to incentivizing quality care.”

The task force has a focus on not only increasing the number of midwives but adding additional women entrepreneurs into the health care ecosystem.  Dr. Mohammed Abdulaziz, Head, Division of Disease Control, Africa CDC stated that successful endeavors must include support from all critical stakeholders that will support the entire health system. Dr. Mohammed Abdulaziz, highlighted some of the critical stakeholders in his comment that “midwives are not only trusted, they are close to the people that need to be served and offer a cost-effective approach to improving primary care access. We need to ensure sustainability and support goals of heads of state. For instance by increasing the number of health workers by two million.”

Currently, "there is an urgent need to increase not only the number of midwives in the next 10 years, but also the quality of their education and training, especially in Africa," noted Fran McConville, Midwifery Technical Officer at the World Health Organization.  McConville added, "millions of women across the globe lack access to prenatal, childbirth, postnatal care and wider sexual and reproductive health services leading to unacceptably high rates of maternal and newborn mortality. We know that midwives, when educated to international standards, can provide the care needed and save many lives,"  The call to improve access to midwifery care is a priority for the private sector as well. “We must look beyond single interventions and towards the continuum of care at community level,” remarked Elizabeth Murray, Executive Director, Global Patient Solutions, Gilead Sciences. Elizabeth also noted that “where there is local ownership, increasing the role of female healthcare workers can be the key to success to reach vulnerable populations.” 

 Ikuo Takizawa, Deputy Director General, Human Development Department, Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) agreed  “Increasing the numbers and improving the skills of female frontline healthcare workers allows delivery of a broad range of care including surveillance, testing, and vaccinating for Covid-19 creating resilience to the current pandemic and future pandemics.” Meghan Cross Breeden, Partner of AmplifyHer Ventures concurred and also explained "there is significant alpha to be generated when we challenge the status quo of traditional venture capital. At Amplifyher Ventures, we invest in women-led businesses as an investment strategy that continues to deliver outsized returns. There has never been a more exciting time to be a woman pioneering healthcare innovation.”  Dr. Hillary Alima, Deputy Chief Of Party at USAID Local Service Delivery for HIV/AIDS Activity (USAID LSDA), UPMB, recommended  that “a human resources approach is needed where people are trained, retained, and incentivized so that we can use our networks to reach even the most rural areas.” Joanne Manrique, President of the Center for Global Health and Development agreed and stated “I look forward to working with the partners over the next few months as this task force moves forward with implementation”.

For more information, please contact:
Richard McKinsey
Communications Advisor
The Center for Global Health and Development
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