Training health workforce in Africa through distance learning

Training health workforce in Africa through distance learning

The African Medical and Research Foundation /AMREF is implementing training programmes for all categories of the health workforce in Eastern and Southern Africa to combat the critical shortage of health service providers.

Out of the 57 countries suffering from a critical shortage of health service providers (doctors, nurses and midwives), 36 are in Africa. At the same time, many African countries are confronted with high rates of emigration of their health workers. Founded in 1957 and headquartered in Nairobi, African Medical and Research Foundation /AMREF is implementing training programmes for all categories of the health workforce such as doctors, nurses, community health workers and midwives, clinical officers, laboratory technicians and pharmacists. AMREF’s training takes place in communities, health centres and hospitals in six African countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda), as well as in AMREF’s International Training Centre in Nairobi and satellite training centres in Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda.

But AMREF’s training reach extends beyond its operational areas in East and Southern Africa, not least through the utilisation of distance learning. For instance, the Diploma in Community Health course, which is available through face to face and distance learning, has graduated 535 students from 35 African countries and Europe since its inception in 1987. As commented by Dr. Peter Ngatia, AMREF’s Director for Capacity Building, during the Second Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, held in Bangkok in January 2011: “Scaling up of production of human resources cannot happen unless we invest in the use of technology to train the numbers that are required. The 105 medical schools in Africa do not have the capacity to meet the urgent demand for doctors, nurses and midwives, among many other cadres of health workers”.

One such success story of AMREF is its support to the Nursing Council of Kenya to create a distance-learning curriculum with the objective of upgrading over 20,000 certificate-level nurses to registered nurses in the country. Four computer-based training modules have been developed and are being delivered through more than 100 eLearning centres – reaching nurses in the most remote areas of Kenya. Twenty-five nursing schools are also taking part in the programme. To date, more than 7,000 nurses have enrolled in the programme, using both print and eLearning modules, and the programme is now being replicated in Uganda.

Based on this rich experience, AMREF is advocating for “African solutions to the health worker crisis” and contributing to the continental efforts to resolve the health worker crisis, not least through its participation to the African Platform on Human Resources for Health.