Underpaid, overworked and disillusioned: doctors and nurses are leaving Africa in droves. But the G8’s response today offers nothing that will prevent further migration of Africa’s healthcare workers.
International NGOs say that despite the announcements of funds for HIV and AIDS and other diseases, the G8 has not got back on track to meet the promises they made in 2005.
Aditi Sharma, head of ActionAid’s HIV and AIDS campaign, says the G8 leaders had recognised the problems but not offered any concrete action. “The shortage of health workers was on the summit agenda, but the G8 hasn’t made any specific commitments: no specific funds, timelines or targets,” she says.
A report by the Ethiopian National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office in 2005 stated that there are just 2,115 doctors for a population of over 77 million people – and newly trained doctors all too often migrate, for better earnings to support their extended families.
And it’s not just a problem in Ethiopia. Collins Magalasi, director of Action Aid in Southern Africa, told me that “over 70 per cent of the doctors and nurses trained in Malawi have emigrated. The G8 countries are utilising them. We can’t stop doctors leaving”.
Malagasi thinks the G8 countries should fund training institutions and provide earnings for healthcare workers that will make it more attractive to stay in Africa. The solution is in the hands of the developed countries.
This isn’t a new story: despite all the talk of funding drugs and clinics for HIV, the fact is that a continued critical shortage of doctors and nurses means people are dying in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa.
The G8 has committed to spending $60 billion to fight infectious diseases over the next five years, but civil society groups are worried that not enough funds will be available to retain doctors and nurses in developing countries.
It’s depressing for me to watch what’s happening here at the G8. It looks like I’ll be going home to the same problems as before.