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‘If we don’t protect nurses, we don’t have a health system’

WHO director general speaks out about violence and discrimination nurses face worldwide

WHO director general speaks out about violence and discrimination nurses face worldwide


WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Picture: Alamy

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has condemned the violence, abuse and discrimination that nurses can face at work.

In a speech at the International Council of Nurses congress in Singapore, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said nurses deserved dignity and respect.

Safe working environment

His comments follow a report that revealed more than 150 nurses and other healthcare workers died in conflict zones last year.

He said violence against and abuse of nurses ‘is a betrayal of our colleagues as health professionals’.

‘Authorities should foster an environment that is a place of safety for staff.

‘If we did not have healthcare workers to deliver safe, effective, people-centred care we do not have a health system.

‘Together we can ensure nurses get the education, the training, the jobs, the conditions, the opportunities, the dignity and the respect they deserve.’

Goal of universal health coverage

Dr Tedros added that nurses were key to achieving universal health coverage.

Nurses – who make up half of the global healthcare workforce – are essential to WHO’s sustainable development goals, which include good health and wellbeing and gender equality, and for achieving universal healthcare coverage by 2030, he said.

But he added the world is short of 18 million healthcare staff including nine million nurses.


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