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Sunday 24th June 2018

Africa loses medical staff

22nd July 2007

The United Nations has called for measures to reduce the brain drain of skilled medical personnel from the world's poorest countries, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.


Charles Gore, the report's lead author and head of research and policy analysis at the the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said the problem of brain drain was a very real one, for which no targetted policies currently existed.

Rich countries could take the lead, rather than letting all the responsibility rest with governments of the least developed countries, he added.

The report predicted that the emigration of skilled workers will continue and that policies need to be crafted to address the serious problems this causes for the 767 million people living in the 50 least developed countries, who earn an average of £370 (US$750) a year.

It identified very large differences in wages between the countries of origin and the destination country as the main factor contributing to the exodus of staff.

But it also cited poor working environments and poorly designed career paths as influential in boosting the numbers of trained medical professionals who seek work overseas.

Included in the perils faced by medics in their country of origin were inefficient healthcare systems in the poorest countries and the risks to the health of practitioners there, such as those involved in HIV programmes.

It also blamed the active recruitment of skilled professionals by rich nations.

In 2004 a million skilled people from the least developed countries were living and working in rich countries, representing "a brain drain of 15%, considering there are some 6.6 million people [in poor countries] who have university educations."

African countries like Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, and Liberia were most affected by brain drain. In 2002, 10% of Zambia's docctors and 43% of Liberia's were resident in the United States and Canada, it said.

In the same year, a total of 5,334 doctors from sub-Saharan African countries were living in the US and Canada, while 12,912 remained in their country of origin.

The United States boasts 300 doctors per 100,000 head of population, compared with just 12.5% in sub-Saharan Africa.

Brain drain adds to the already numerous problems of African countries, which include drought and malnutrition and major humanitarian emergencies in countries such as Zimbabwe, where half of all healthcare positions are now vacant, crippling the country's healthcare system.

Poor countries are trying to create more employment opportunities for medical professionals but are hampered by a lack of resources.

The report suggests rich countries might help in a number of ways, including recruiting doctors on a temporary and not permanent basis, or by boosting medics' salaries via development assistance programmes so that poor countries retain their skilled staff.

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Wednesday 25th July 2007 @ 18:03

I get sick of hearing about brain drain. I left Africa, shaking its soil from my feet as I left. I want to have clean drinking water and sleep in a soft bed in relative safety, I want to drive a car that does not keep breaking down and I want to eat a decent meal or two every day, I want a salary and a house to live in. Why is it that because I am from Africa that I am somehow committing some terrible sin if I choose to do that in this country? I don’t want to live and work in Africa in the conditions that are there. My extended family that are still there benefit far more from my being here. I can afford to send them money for things they need rather than sitting by helplessly while they die- which was the situation when I was there. I apologise if this seems harsh to some but its about time you heard the other side of the story rather than what comes out from executives sitting in plush offices who have never (or only rarely) had to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

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