WHO: World short of 5.9 million nurses and carers

Medical personnel tend to woman at the emergency entrance set up a tent in the courtyard of the Henri Mondor Hospital in the suburbs of Paris on April 5, 2020, on the 20.day of a lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. (AFP Photo)

The world is short of 5.9 million professional nurses, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report published on Tuesday.

The UN body's report, called "The State of the World's Nursing 2020" and which covers 2013 to 2018, said that the "global nursing workforce" stood at 27.9 million people, 19.3 million of whom are professional nurses.

The report said the "global shortage of nurses" had decreased from 6.6 million in 2016 to 5.9 million in 2018. Around 90 per cent of the nursing workforce was female, though "few leadership positions in health are held by nurses or women."

Data showed "wide variation in density of nursing personnel to population, with the greatest gaps in ... the African, South-East Asia and Eastern Mediterranean regions and ... in Latin America."

The report noted age disparities in certain regions, with "substantially older age structures in the American and European regions. Countries in these areas would face challenges in maintaining the nursing workforce. Some countries are over-reliant on migrant nurses.

Meanwhile WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lauded nurses' efforts in the coronavirus pandemic. "Today, many nurses find themselves on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19," he said, referring to the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus.

That praise was echoed by WHO's regional European office.

"Faced with the most exceptional circumstances and toughest working conditions, nurses across the European region and the world have met the challenge with bravery, compassion and professionalism," said Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.

"They ... deserve our deepest thanks and respect,"

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