The world needs at least 4 million health care professionals, the director-general of the World Health Organization said Tuesday, urging member nations to train more workers.
Margaret Chan said the manpower crisis was most severe in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for 24 percent of the global burden of diseases but has only 3 percent of the health work force.
Another problem is the vast numbers of skilled health workers leaving the countries that invested in their training, she said.
"Some powerful countries have gone to Third World countries to recruit their doctors and nurses," Chan told fellow medical colleagues at a lecture at the National University of Singapore.
Several countries, including the United States and Singapore, have begun employing foreign doctors from the Philippines, India and Pakistan in recent years.
Chan acknowledged that few medical professionals are prepared to work in developing countries.
"We need to rethink how can we train enough people who would stay in villages to help villages in Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar," she said.
Chan was in Singapore for a three-day visit ahead of World Health Day, which is April 7.