A Shortage of psychiatrists is a problem in Africa

The stories

I just returned from a week long trip in Tanzania where I have been researching about dementia. Without pre-emptying my story I found that there is a shortage of mental health workers. But I didn’t want this to be anecdotal so I went to the World Health Organization website for statistics and compiled the graphs below.

Psychiatry has the lowest median of health workers for the whole of Africa at 0.06.

But what are the country statistics? The map below the numbers of mental health workers in 50 African states. Click this link to see the interactive data


Africa compares poorly with other regions such as the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation Development whose median number of psychiatrists in its 34 member states is 20.

Sebastiana Nkomo from the World Health Organization, attributes the shortage of mental health workers to stigma.

“Mental health has been regarded as a non- priority area of health compared to other health areas. Health professionals themselves  in the past( 10-12 years ago) considered mental health as a non-lucrative area of work compared to other health areas,” Nkomo says.

The result is that patients cannot access the required medical care.

“Access to mental health services is limited due to the shortage of professionals who are mostly concentrated in big cities thus leaving the population in the peripheral or remote areas without access to services,” Nkomo says.


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