Document Type : Review Article
KIT Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Faculty of Health, WHO Collaborating Centre, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW, Australia
World Bank, Washington, DC, USA
Conflict has devastating effects on health systems, especially on healthcare workers (HCWs) working in under-resourced and hostile environments. However, little evidence is available on how policy-makers, often together with development partners, can optimize the organization of the health workforce and support HCWs to deliver accessible and trustworthy health services in conflict-affected settings (CAS).
A scoping review was conducted to review recent evidence (2016-2022) on human resources for health (HRH) in CAS, and critically discuss HRH challenges in these settings. Thirty-six studies were included in the review and results were presented using an adapted version of the health labour market (HLM) framework.
Evidence from CAS highlights that conflict causes specific constraints in both the education sector and in the HLM, and deepens any existing disconnect between those sectors. Parallel and inadequate education and performance management systems, attacks on health facilities, and increased workload and stress, amongst other factors, affect HCW motivation, performance, distribution, and attrition. Short-term, narrowly focused policy-making undermines the long-term sustainability and resilience of the health workforce in CAS, and also contributes to the limited and narrow available research base.
While HRH and workforce issues in CAS include those found in many other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), an additional set of challenges for HCWs, governance dynamics and institutional constraints in CAS ‘multiply’ negative effects on the health workforce. HRH policies, programmes and interventions must be aligned with the political and broader societal context, including the stage, severity and other dynamics of conflict. During conflict, it is important to try to monitor in- and outflow of HCWs and provide HCWs the support they need at local level or through remote measures. The post-conflict situation may present opportunities for improvement in HRH, but a clear understanding of political economy dynamics is required to better act on any such a window of opportunity.