The Oasis Reporters
July 7, 2023
By Richard F Inoyo
The African continent is used to people from outside the continent wanting its resources: From Gold in Ivory Coast and Ghana, to Diamond in Botswana, down to Minerals in Democratic Republic of Congo, and oil in Nigeria _ the list is a longish one.
But over the last 20 years, a new kind of want by richer countries, mainly the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Ireland etc on African nations is now gaining attention in Citizens’ Observatory _ the research wing of Citizens’ Solution Network, a pro-people’s organisation which is saddled with the responsibility of focusing on citizens’ data streams, advocacy and 360 suggestions in tackling national challenges.
Across the Mediterranean Sea, the international media such as the BBC, CNN, and many others are showcasing some desperate scenes where largely unskilled workers from mainly the Asian and African countries are doing everything at all costs to get into Europe on unsafe boats facilitated by illegal watercraft operators.
That isn’t the total constellation of the pictures for on the flip side, Africa can be seen to be facing a new kind of threat beyond the determination of its young population wanting to leave the continent; and this threat comes in the form of highly skilled nurses, medical laboratory scientists, doctors, and other healthcare workers signing the registers of medical and paramedic councils in developed countries as they leave in droves almost every week or every month.
According to the World Health Organization’s WHO health workforce support and safeguards list 2023, some 55 countries have significant health staffing shortages—by the numbers, that means fewer than the median of 49 health workers per 10,000 people—and 40 of them are in Africa. In other words, roughly 80% of Africa is experiencing medical staff shortages and high rates of healthcare professionals leaving to work in other countries.
It is noteworthy to state that just recently, the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives said over 75,000 nurses and midwives left the country in five years to seek greener pastures outside the country.
Look at the figure again 75,000 nurses.
And this is coming at a time when the National President of Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, Dr Innocent Orji painfully revealed that Nigeria has lost about 2,800 resident doctors over a period of two years. What this means is more waiting time in hospitals due to understaffing when accessing healthcare, and more maternal death and infant mortality outcomes due to experienced hands leaving the country’s already understaffed medical workplace.
Even though the likes of Jim Campbell, the Director of Health Workforce in World Health Organization, made it known that, “the international migration of nurses from poorer African countries is a cause for concern, and we are hoping that the 10 to 15years healthcare workforce strategy that is about to be published by the British government which has taken up to 5years to develop, will eventually address the challenges this immigration creates in poor nations provided the building of local medical education capacity across UK is prioritized”.
Those of us at Citizens’ Solution Network know that, British effort alone won’t resolve the domestic threats the growing exit of medics and paramedics from Nigeria to elsewhere poses to Nigeria’s overall healthcare.
First to tackle this migration problem, part of the domestic strategy must include remuneration of health workers which needs to be increased, and working conditions should be improved to discourage more health workers from leaving.
Secondly, the attempt by the government to privatize tertiary education will further create shortage and discourage more Nigerians from accessing medical and paramedic education due to the astronomical cost such wrong policy will bring in terms of fee charges.
Hence, the government should wave aside such anti-productive policies, and focus on building more infrastructure in schools while working actively to reduce cost of accessing tertiary education for all.
By doing this, we can increase our domestic capacity and address the horrible problem mass migration of health workers is causing.
Just like the British government intends to do in that respect which involves commitment to funding medical education capacity to upset its dependency on international migration of medics and paramedics_ the Nigerian government needs to do the same to address the growing migration of medics and paramedics.
And we can take a lift from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Poland, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Lebanon, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Uruguay where education is free at all levels, including colleges and universities for citizens.
Richard Inoyo is the Country Director, Citizens’ Solution Network