Official Statement: International Nurses Day 2021

By: H.E. Amira Elfadil Mohamed – Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, African Union ‎Commission

12 May 2021, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – The health and well-being of individuals, families, and societies in Africa is fundamental to ‎the continent’s prosperity. Nurses and midwives play a vital role in responding to the health-related needs of communities in ‎all settings. They are thus, critical to the attainment of a healthy and prosperous Africa in line with AU Agenda  2063, Africa Health Strategy, and all AU Health Policy documents such as the Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB, and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030, and global sustainable development goals. On this International Nurses Day, the African Union Commission celebrates the ‎essential‏ ‏support‏ ‏of nurses on the continent and worldwide.‎

‎The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the ‎‏pertinent challenge of ‎healthcare ‎staff ‎shortage. ‎In the spirit of the theme of International Nurses Day 2021‎, ‘Nurses: A Voice to Lead – A Vision For ‎Future Healthcare’. I call on the AU  Member States to harness the value of virtual forums to share best practices between regions and countries and foster multisectoral collaborations to equip nurses to respond to ongoing and future changes in healthcare. The pandemic also provides an opportunity to sharpen the ability of the nursing workforce to cope with health crises which the AU Member States can leverage and explore new models of care where nurses are integral, pivotal players in the health system. In the breadth of the pandemic, I empathise with the lives of nurses we have lost and extend heartfelt condolences to all the families, and communities who have lost one of them.

One of the ways the shortage in nurses and doctors is being addressed in Africa is by strengthening the role of midwives, and community health workers (CHWs) in Africa as first responders to the ‎‎communities’ healthcare needs hard-to-reach populations. In 2017, Heads of State and Government endorsed the Two Million African Community Health Workers Initiative aiming to recruit, train and deploy (two) 2 million CHWs across the continent by 2020. In April 2020, the AU Commission and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) launched the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing: Trace, Test, and Track (PACT) Initiative to facilitate the implementation of the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19. The Initiative includes a training module that can facilitate a rapid orientation for CHWs to work in the COVID-19 response. Living in the communities they serve, community health workers bring a passion to their work. I encourage the AU Member States to make optimal use of CHW-related resources and initiatives to ensure their support is utilised innovatively and productively within the health systems.

Monitoring, evaluation, and regulation are critical components to improving the nursing practice. I call on the AU Member States to put up systems that consistently evaluate the health service needs of their citizens, determine how nurses can meet the needs and the respective policy, regulatory and educational support necessary for the professionals to fulfil their roles satisfactorily. Enforcing standards in service delivery protects both the healthcare provider and consumer as ethics are followed, which fosters quality and equality. Closely related is the necessity of creating an enabling work environment and an appropriate reward and progression ‎structure. I urge the AU Member States to give the needed weight and attention ‎to the growth and development of nurses as it is equally crucial for positive outcomes.‎

In‏ ‏conclusion, I encourage the AU Member States to take interest in innovative teaching strategies that are available and productive for training and practice. Technology, such as mobile and e-learning platforms, could allow nurses to benefit from mentors and educators who are physically distant while giving them the flexibility to create learning goals in their preferred locations. As we strive to prepare for the future changes in healthcare, the health workforce must be equipped to understand the trends for the next decade and prepared to tackle the emerging demands of health systems.

‎I reiterate that the Commission ‎will continue to support the AU Member States to incentivise flexible approaches to improving the nursing profession in Africa.

I thank you