The world will need an additional nine million nurses and midwives to achieve the commitment of providing all people with access to health care by 2030, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
For this reason, the UN agency and its partners will use the coming year to advocate for greater investment in these crucial health workers.
“Nurses and midwives are the backbone of every health system: in 2020 we’re calling on all countries to invest in nurses and midwives as part of their commitment to health for all,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General.
The International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife marks the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
It celebrates professionals who provide a broad range of essential services to people everywhere.
Besides preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases, and providing expert care during childbirth, nurses and midwives also serve people caught in humanitarian emergencies and conflicts.
Currently, there are 22 million nurses and two million midwives worldwide, accounting for half of the global health workforce, according to WHO.
However, the world requires 18 million more health workers—approximately half of them nurses and midwives—to realize universal health coverage before the end of the decade, in line with a pledge that world leaders made at a UN meeting in September.
During the year, WHO will push for measures to ensure that nurses and midwives can work to their full potential.
Key areas for investment include employing more specialist nurses, making midwives and nurses central to primary health care, and supporting them in health promotion and disease prevention.