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World short of 6 million nurses: WHO

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GENEVA : As Covid-19 captures global headlines, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned yesterday that the world needs nearly six million nurses.

The UN's health agency along with partners Nursing Now and the International Council of Nurses (ICN) underscored in a report the crucial role of nurses, who make up more than half of all healthcare workers globally.

"Nurses are the backbone of any health system," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

"Today, many nurses find themselves on the front line in the battle against Covid-19," he noted, adding that it was vital they "get the support they need to keep the world healthy".

The report said there are just under 28 million nurses worldwide . In the five years leading up to 2018, the number grew by 4.7 million.

"But this still leaves a global shortfall of 5.9 million," WHO said, pointing out that the greatest gaps were in poorer countries in Africa, South-east Asiaand parts of South America.

The report urged countries to identify gaps in their nursing workforce and invest in nursing education, jobs and leadership.

ICN chief executive Howard Catton told a virtual briefing that infection rates, medication errors and mortality rates "are all higher where there are too few nurses". Furthermore, "shortages exhaust our current nursing workforce", he added.

Ms Mary Watkins, who co-chaired the report for Nursing Now, called for urgent investment in virus tests for healthcare workers.

"We have a very high proportion of healthcare workers not going to work because they are afraid they have been infected and they can't prove they have not got the infection," she said.

Mr Catton said 23 nurses had died in Italy and cited figures suggesting around 100 healthcare workers had died around the world. Meanwhile, he said there were reports of 9 per cent of healthcare workers being infected in Italy and "we're now hearing of rates of infections up to 14 per cent in Spain".- AFP