Financial Times Examines Malawi's "Brain Drain" Crisis; Physicians for Human Rights Ad, Letter Highlight African Crisis
July 8, 2005
The Financial Times on Wednesday profiled the lack of medical workers in Malawi, a country that epitomizes the problem that "brain drain" causes for many of Africa's health care systems. There are only 100 doctors and 2,000 nurses for Malawi's 12 million people because many health care workers trained in the country now practice in developed countries, which pay higher salaries. Rich countries also provide better working conditions for doctors, as the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa has added a "heavy burden" to health care on the continent, the Times reports. In addition, many health care workers in Malawi have become sick with HIV/AIDS or have died. Nearly 15% of Malawi's adult population is HIV-positive. Some hospitals in Malawi have resorted to hiring retired medical workers to fill the gaps, according to the Times. Atta Gbary, the World Health Organization's Africa adviser on human resources and health, said the shortage of medical workers in Malawi means that when donors offer funds "it is impossible to use them because the people are simply not there to work anymore." According to Gbary, 23,000 medical workers leave Africa annually and there are only 800,000 medical workers working on the continent currently. Malawian Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba said the country should require its medical workers to serve several years in the country after completing their training. He also said that foreign governments that employ medical workers from Malawi should compensate the country for the cost of training new doctors and nurses. The United Nations estimates that it costs $100,000 to train a specialist doctor in Africa (Jack, Financial Times, 7/6).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.