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Celebrating everyday humanitarians: #ThanksHealthHero

Jim Campbell, Director, Health Workforce Department, WHO. Executive Director, Global Health Workforce Alliance.

Commentary
19 August 2015

Most health workers probably don’t think of themselves as humanitarians. But a humanitarian is someone who seeks to promote the welfare of others – and that’s exactly what health workers do every day.

So, to mark World Humanitarian Day on 19th August, WHO is using the opportunity to recognize those health workers who have dedicated their lives to improving the health of others in the face of untold hardship, danger and adversity. From now until the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, people around the world are invited to send messages to honour the efforts of health workers via social media using #ThanksHealthHero.

Jim Campbell, Director, Health Workforce Department, WHO. Executive Director, Global Health Workforce Alliance.
WHO

Often more concerned about the health of others, than their own personal safety, many health workers provide care under the most challenging of circumstances. Whether it is in the midst of a conflict or humanitarian disaster, or in a resource poor setting, there are countless stories of heroism and determination.

In parts of the world affected by conflict, health workers and health facilities are too often exposed to violence and insecurity. In 2014 alone, WHO reports indicate 603 health workers died due to attacks. This trend continues in 2015, with hundreds of health workers dying in conflict zones and when fighting disease outbreaks such as Ebola. For instance, in Yemen five health workers were killed and 14 injured in June 2015. Ongoing, repeated and targeted attacks on health facilities have also been increasing in Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria, and other conflict zones affecting people’s access to life-saving healthcare.

The Ebola crisis in West Africa has highlighted once again the vulnerability of health workers when dealing with infectious diseases. Of the 880 health workers infected with Ebola, 510 died. A 2015 WHO report on health worker infections has found that health workers are between 21 and 32 times more likely to be infected with Ebola than the general population.

"A humanitarian is someone who seeks to promote the welfare of others – and that’s exactly what health workers do every day."

Jim Campbell, Director, Health Workforce Department, WHO. Executive Director, Global Health Workforce Alliance.

Since early 2014, WHO and the Global Health Workforce Alliance have been coordinating the development of a new Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030 which will build on the latest available evidence to address existing and future health workforce challenges. The strategy recognizes the need to support health workers – our everyday humanitarians across various settings. Health workforce plans need to take into consideration strategies to adequately support, motivate and retain health workers during times of a disaster to post-disaster contexts and low-income settings.

There are just a few weeks left to feed into the public consultation for the Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030. It is important that everybody contributes to ensure that it fully reflects the needs of healthcare providers around the world, as well as those who rely on their care and expertise.

We owe it to those thousands of health workers, who put their passion and commitment to their jobs ahead of all else, to secure a strong global health workforce strategy that will ensure more, better supported health workers in generations to come.

Make your voice heard in The Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030 until 31 August 2015 by visiting the consultation page linked below.

Make your voice heard!

Consultation on the Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030 - until 31 August 2015.

World Humanitarian Day 2015