Zimbabwean nurses and doctors are expressing disappointment and frustration at the recent foreign recruitment ban imposed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), stating that they are unable to endure the poor working conditions any longer. Underpaid and overworked health professionals are seeking alternative options to find employment overseas.

The WHO recently identified Zimbabwe, along with 53 other nations, as facing a severe shortage of health personnel. This led the United Kingdom (UK) to halt active recruitment of nurses from the southern African country.

Douglas Chikobvu, Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union, expressed his dismay at the recruitment ban, stating, “As it stands, the future of Zimbabwean nurses set to leave for greener pastures has been dealt a big blow. The government has been sort of abusive on how (it is) handling the plight of nurses.”

Chikobvu continued, “Instead of addressing the root causes, (it is) coming up with a raft of measures to tie our already impoverished and starving nurses. The reason for massive brain drain is due to measly wages. What we all expected the government to do was to swiftly address bread and butter issues by awarding nurses a living wage in US dollars.”

According to the UK’s Office of National Statistics, Zimbabwe is among the top five countries with the highest number of citizens granted work visas to Britain over the past two years. This follows a mass exodus of skilled workers, including at least 3,000 health professionals, to the UK in the past two years. Some of these individuals have opted for low-paying jobs abroad due to poor remuneration in Zimbabwe.

Itai Rusike, Executive Director of the Community Working Group on Health, suggests that “the government of Zimbabwe should consider the concept of formalising the export of surplus health professionals in order to protect its citizens working abroad because if migration is not formalised, health professionals will still leave the country anyway.”

Rusike continues, “Not every nurse trained has to work for the State throughout their working life. But the country’s health delivery system can benefit from the experience of the returnees gained while in the receiving countries. It’s important to invest in people to harness talent. Why train and let people go.? This is a highly critical and precious resource. It’s a death sentence to citizens as they cannot access quality health care.”

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean government has yet to address the concerns raised by health professionals. Health Ministry spokesperson, Donald Mujiri, has not commented on the matter.

The recruitment ban has been a significant blow to Zimbabwean nurses and doctors who are seeking better opportunities abroad. They are calling on their government to provide adequate wages and working conditions to retain skilled workers and prevent a mass brain drain that could prove detrimental to the country’s healthcare system.