Inadequate number of health workers in rural areas is a major concern in many countries. It causes underutilization, prevents equitable access of health services, and is a barrier to universal health coverage. To increase the number and improve retention of health workers in rural areas, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued global recommendations to improve the rural retention of the health workforce. This paper presents the experiences of adopting and implementing the WHO recommendations in four states in Northern Nigeria. It highlights the results, challenges and lessons learnt with the implementation. We used an implementation research approach and evaluated the implementation at three stages: the pilot; full implementation; and immediate post exit. A total of 477 midwives were recruited and deployed to rural health facilities over a period of four years. Of these, 196 (41%) were in Jigawa, 126 (26.4%) in Yobe, 78 (16.4%) in Zamfara and 77 (16.1%) in Katsina. Midwives’ retention rates increased gradually over the four years. In three (Jigawa, Katsina and Zamfara) of the four states, midwives’ retention rates increased from 69.2% in Jigawa in 2013 to 98% in 2016; from 53.3% in Katsina in 2013 to 100% retention in 2016. Zamfara made the most progress with a poor retention rate of 42.8% in 2013 to 100% retention rate in 2016. In Yobe state, the retention rate of 47% in 2013 gradually increased to 100% in 2015. This however slightly dropped to 90% in 2016 as a result of the deteriorating security situation in 2015. Other effects of the initiative included: heightened determination of states to increase the production of indigenous midwives; reversal of policy directives that banned the recruitment of health workers including midwives; and to provide incentives such as safe and comfortable accommodation.
Part of the book: Rural Health