Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Draining of Health- workers

Socialist Banner has directed attention to the export of people and their skills and talents from African countries before ( here and here ) and yet another report on the problem has come to our attention that highlights the problem of the brain drain .

Poor working conditions and inadequate pay have driven away health professionals from developing countries, thereby undermining medical services, a conference to address the global shortage has noted. The deficit, the conference heard, had reached four million doctors, nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals. Of these, one million are needed in Africa alone .

Some 57 countries, especially in Africa and Asia, are particularly affected and unable to effectively provide access to essential health services, prevention and information campaigns, drug distribution and other life-saving interventions such as immunisation, maternity care and treatment of several diseases. While Sub-Saharan Africa has 11 percent of the world population and 24 percent of the global burden of disease, it has only 3 percent of the world’s health workers. In Africa, 36 countries have fewer than 2.3 doctors, nurses and midwives per 1,000 people, mainly because of “brain drain” of trained personnel to developed countries. Only two countries have fulfilled a 2001 pledge by African countries to commit 15% of their national budgets to funding the health sector to meet the Millennium Development Goals. None of the East African countries have met that pledge. Uganda contributes 9.6%, while Kenya and Tanzania contribute only slightly more.

Uganda’s health minister, Stephen Malinga, said his country had lost more than 500 doctors and thousands of nurses, of whom 200 were working in South Africa. "Our neighbours have also taken them ... they are paid in dollars in Sudan and others with indispensable expertise have gone to Rwanda," he said. Those who opt to stay in Uganda, Malinga explained, were earning so little they could often not afford to pay the rent. Uganda thus had one doctor for 100,000 patients. [ An EU official said "The corruption index in Uganda, especially in the health sector, is still very high. I think health comes second after the Police in corruption.”]

Global Health Workforce Alliance said one in four doctors trained in Africa was working in western industrialised countries.

"They seek better employment and quality of life. Income is an important motivation for migration as well as better working conditions, career opportunities and more job satisfaction," Sigrun Mogedal, one of the conference organisers said.

The conference held out its begging bowl to solve the problem with the usual plea for funds - a 10-year global action plan to deal with the problem, which would require US$3.3 billion per year to train 1.8 million health workers in Africa for the next eight years. Another $27 billion would be required to pay them to stay. Needless to say , no solution , at all .

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