Statement of the Regional Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, on the launch of “Nursing Now”

The ‘Nursing Now’ campaign, to be launched in Geneva, London and Kampala on 27 February 2018, aims to improve health globally by raising the status and profile of nursing, and enable nurses to maximize their contribution to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). 

‘Nursing Now’ is hosted by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, an independent charitable trust in the UK, supported by the UK Departments of Health, and Trade and Industry, and the Department of International Development. Nursing Now is launched and will be carried out with the engagement and collaboration of WHO and the International Council of Nurses as core partners. 

Nursing Now’ implements the commitment made by all WHO Member States and the resolution by the UN General Assembly to step up investments in the health workforce. It comes at a critical time in Africa’s Health Transformation as we roll out UHC across the continent.

Nurses are the backbone of healthcare delivery in Africa. Achieving UHC will depend on their talents and skills being utilized to the fullest capacity. They have the numbers, knowledge and values that make them uniquely placed to provide people-centred care to meet the current and future health needs of populations.

The main challenge of nursing in Africa is the widening gap of supply, demand, and unequal distribution of the available workforce, particularly in rural or remote areas. Retaining health workers is critical to improving coverage and equitable access to health care in Africa: While there is a shortage of nurse midwives, even those we have are not equitably distributed because of retention challenges. 

Imagine how many lives could be saved if every health centre in Africa, particularly in rural areas, had well-trained nurse midwives?

Conducive working environments are a strong motivator to encourage staff retention and attract people to a career in nursing. Working environments that address safe staffing levels, adequate and effective use of technology, respect and gender equity, as well as professional development and leadership opportunities will help to retain nurse midwives as people in the right place, at the right time, in the right profession. 

As we roll out UHC, we need more nurses now in leadership positions to influence health in all policies, and more opportunities for leadership development at all levels. Opportunities for nurse leaders do exist, particularly if they can envision their contribution beyond nursing. They can be change agents, guiding development, engaging patients and communities, and promoting the use of technology to improve access to health services. 
Investments in nursing are needed now to develop competent, people-centred nurse midwives who can collaborate across cadres and sectors to achieve UHC and the health-related Sustainable Development Goals. 

Investing in nursing now by increasing their numbers, skills and competencies will yield triple returns of better health outcomes, greater health security and economic growth through job creation and healthier, more productive populations. 

I am a very proud supporter of ‘Nursing Now’.