In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified 57 countries with severe health worker shortages. These and other nations cannot expect to meet the health and development needs of their people if recruitment practices remain unmonitored and operate without guidelines that are ethical, reflective of local need, and grounded in human rights.This coming week, January 18 -23, the WHO’s Executive Board will meet in Geneva for the first of its two annual meetings. Among other responsibilities, the Executive Board sets the agenda for each year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) and the resolutions that it will consider by 193 member states.At this year’s Executive Board meeting, the Executive Board will consider the latest draft of the Code of Practice (PDF) on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel. The Code is to provide guidance—a set of principles and a framework—that government and non-government actors, including recruitment agencies and hospitals and other health worker employers, are strongly encouraged to follow as they recruit health professionals from source countries to work in destination countries.This health worker migration is an important issue for the Health Workforce Advocacy Initiative (HWAI) because as countries recruit doctors, nurses and other health professionals from abroad, they further reduce the already scarce supply of highly valued and much needed human resources for health.HWAI recognizes that health workers have the right to freely migrate. However, we seek to ensure that international recruitment practices of health personnel are done in a fair and ethical manner that is reflective of source country health needs and human rights, particularly, the right to health. (For a cogent discussion of the interaction between the right to health and health worker recruitment, see pages 13-17 of this report by Paul Hunt (PDF), the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health.)HWAI and a coalition of 25 international and national NGOs has written a letter to the WHO that highlights several amendments that have strengthened the Code since its earlier version. The letter also offers a series of recommendations that will further improve the Code and ensure it strengthens fragile health systems. We expect the letter to be formally presented to the Executive Board in the coming days.If the Code is endorsed by the Executive Board, it will then head to the 63rd WHA in May 2010, where it will be considered by member states.
Read the HWAI letter
[download id="19"]The Health Workforce Advocacy Initiative (HWAI), chaired by Physicians for Human Rights and supported by the Global Health Workforce Alliance, is an international civil society-led coalition that works to strengthen human resources for health and seeks to ensure that all people everywhere have access to skilled, motivated, and supported health workers within well-functioning health systems.