Source: United States Agency for International Development (USAID) |

On World Health Day, Making "My Health, My Right” A Reality For All

USAID has been advancing these efforts across its global health work, including, most recently, through Primary Impact, which launched last year and is now operational in 12 countries across Africa and Asia

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America, April 7, 2024/APO Group/ --

Statement by Administrator Samantha Power

In the small town of Dodota, Ethiopia – population 96,000 – health workers go to extraordinary lengths to track malaria. With only two health centers for a town where every single person has an elevated risk of contracting or dying from malaria, health workers are essential foot soldiers in the battle to keep the disease at bay, going door to door, asking residents if anyone inside has suspicious symptoms. And when COVID-19 descended on Dodota, these health workers doubled down, equipped only with hand sanitizer and masks – testing patients with fever not just for malaria, but for COVID; spreading awareness of social distancing and handwashing; and, when necessary, directing COVID patients into isolation.

Across the world, health workers like the ones in Dodota are on the front lines finding ways to deliver lifesaving health care where it is needed. They cross rope bridges to vaccinate children in remote mountain communities, or go door-to-door in crowded urban areas to spread awareness of how to prevent the spread of tuberculosis. In places like Gaza, Ukraine, and Sudan, they risk their own lives to provide urgently needed medical care to those who most need it. Their dedication, sacrifice, and effectiveness is crucial to expanding global access to health care – and to making this year’s World Health Day theme of “My Health, My Right” a reality across the world.

Many parts of the development and health communities have long recognized the value of these health workers, and the care they provide. After the 1977 World Health Assembly declared a global goal of “Health for All by the Year 2000,” member governments immediately followed up with the Alma Ata Declaration – which identified primary health care as the most important tool in the toolbox for achieving that goal. Though global investments in primary health care still fell significantly short, the investments that were made – especially those supporting primary health care workers – had a significant positive impact. 

In 2002, for example, Thailand’s government trained a million community health workers to provide essential primary care in hospitals and households across Thailand. Thanks in large part to these investments, today, malaria deaths have been nearly eliminated in the country, with just 6 deaths in 2023. Ninety-nine percent of newborns receive immunizations against tetanus nationwide, and 90 percent of pregnant women attend at least four prenatal care appointments. 

But more action is needed to support health workers and the care they provide – especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid protracted conflicts, which overwhelm health systems all over the world and place further pressure on the already under-resourced health workforce. As of 2023, the World Health Organization identifies 55 countries as facing dangerous shortages of health workers – a more than 15 percent increase from the previous year. More than a third of those countries are in Africa – which bears a quarter of the world’s burden of illness, but has just 4 percent of its health workers. Health workers have to work in difficult, often dangerous conditions with inadequate rights and protections: low or no pay, impossibly long hours, insufficient protective equipment, and even harassment and violence. These issues are magnified for women health workers, who make up 70 percent of the health workforce worldwide. 

President Biden has already identified the need for more investments in the global health workforce, including through his Global Health Worker Initiative aimed at helping partner governments protect and fairly compensate health workers around the world – including health workers who deliver primary health care. USAID has been advancing these efforts across its global health work, including, most recently, through Primary Impact, which launched last year and is now operational in 12 countries across Africa and Asia. Primary Impact focuses on strengthening all aspects of primary health care – and as part of that goal, focuses on increasing investments in the global health workforce. We are partnering with governments to better protect and retain health workers, especially women, while also helping them to expand the health workforce. We’re also collaborating with partners such as the World Bank, UNICEF, and WTO to help raise the additional resources countries need to address these urgent priorities.

On World Health Day, USAID will continue investing in primary health workers around the world – the people who are crucial to expanding access to high-quality, affordable, accessible health care to everyone. If others join us in these investments, we can together save tens of millions of lives – and get closer to that enduring but elusive goal of “health for all.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United States Agency for International Development (USAID).