Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Tufton welcomes WHO’s decision to start paying interns

Published:Thursday | September 27, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has bowed to a campaign championed by Jamaica's Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and is to offer paid internships for the first time to boost access for those applying from developing countries.

Tufton, championed the campaign in Geneva as he argued that "We should make it easier for young people to access these facilities and view it as an investment in the people who participate."

Yesterday, the BBC reported that the WHO has admitted its selection process was not "merit-based" and that it recognised its unpaid internships were unfair.

That decision was welcomed by Tufton who told The Gleaner, "Jamaica, like most small developing countries, need ongoing capacity building to maintain and expand public-health administration. While we have been able to train clinicians to world-class standards, we do have gaps in public-health administration.

He added: "Programmes like this one administered by the WHO is a good way to expose and train future local public-health administrators. In the past, however, it would be difficult to access due to funding constraints. This change will allow for more to access. I have no doubt we will see more persons taking this opportunity. I intend to encourage persons to take up the opportunity."

For the past 50 years, the WHO has expected its interns to move to its headquarters in Geneva, or one of its six regional offices, and work unpaid without travel expenses for up to six months, costing each person around £5,000 (approximately J$890,000).

But now the WHO says funding for 50 interns per year had already been secured from the Wellcome Trust, a London-based medical research charity, and more support is needed.

"If we are to nurture the next generation of global leaders who truly come from all four corners of the earth, we need to facilitate them spending time with us," the WHO media team said.

As a whole, the UN had more than 38,000 interns between 2009 and 2017, but more than 80 per cent (about 30,400) were unpaid.