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Zim Healthcare Heavily Affected By Departing Nurses

Zimbabwe has been named as one of the countries that are affected by the recent migration of healthcare workers, a World Health Organisation report says.

The report reveals that 55 countries now rank below the global median in terms of their density of doctors, nurses and midwives per capita, leaving these countries heavily burdened and underresourced.

This is in comparison to 47 countries in 2020 when the last report was produced, based on data collected just prior to the outbreak of the COVID pandemic.

The report comes at a time when most healthcare workers are leaving Zimbabwe for better opportunities abroad, leaving the healthcare system in the country vulnerable.

Among the countries that recently joined the list of those with vulnerable health workforces are Rwanda, Comoros and Zambia in the African region; Timor-Leste in the South-East Asia region; and Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Samoa and Tuvalu in the Western Pacific region of the WHO.

Among all 55 countries with sub-par numbers of healthcare workers, 37 are in WHO’s Africa region, eight in the Western Pacific region, six in the Eastern Mediterranean region, three in the south-east Asia region and one in the agency’s Americas region, the report found. All these countries have a healthcare workforce density of fewer than 49 workers per 10,000 people.

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The WHO reports series tracks countries where the number of professionally trained healthcare workers falls below the global median of 49 per 10,000 population. It also examines countries’ rankings regarding a Universal Health Service coverage index.  

The adverse health, economic and social impacts of COVID-19, coupled with the increased demand for healthcare workers in high-income countries experienced during the pandemic, likely helped trigger more outward migration of healthcare workers from countries that are already suffering from low health workforce densities, the report found.  

“Health workers are the backbone of every health system, and yet 55 countries with some of the world’s most fragile health systems do not have enough and many are losing their health workers to international migration,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in a press release that accompanied the report.

The outward migration of healthcare workers from low- or middle-income countries in search of better wages and working conditions is a longstanding issue, which has only become more serious as the global workforce becomes more mobile generally.  

The WHO says it is not against the migration of workers if it was managed appropriately.

The voluntary Global Code of Practice for the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, adopted at the 2010 World Health Assembly, aims to curb aggressive recruitment of healthcare workers from the global south by rich countries – as well as supporting fair and transparent employment terms for those who do choose to migrate elsewhere.  

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Approximately 15% of healthcare workers globally are working outside of their country of birth, WHO has found. But this varies widely by region – with the proportion of foreign-trained nurses reaching 70% to 80% in some affluent Gulf countries in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region.  

About 10-12% of foreign-trained doctors and nurses hail from countries deemed vulnerable by WHO due to their lack of sufficient numbers of indigenous healthcare workers.  

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Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

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