Financial Times Examines Malawi’s ‘Brain Drain’ Crisis; Physicians for Human Rights Ad, Letter Highlight African Crisis
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).
PHR Newspaper Ad, Letter to G8
Physicians for Human Rights on Thursday placed a newspaper advertisement in the Financial Times to draw attention to the brain drain of medical workers in Africa as leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized countries convene in Gleneagles, Scotland, for their annual meeting. "If the G8 is serious about fighting poverty in Africa, then it must support additional funds for health workers combating AIDS, TB, malaria and more," the ad states, pointing out that in Malawi only 10% of doctors' positions are filled and 10 people die of AIDS-related causes every hour (PHR ad, Financial Times, 7/7). The ad also draws attention to a letter released by PHR last week and signed by hundreds of medical organizations, health ministers, doctors and nurses worldwide. The letter calls for G8 countries to provide funding to ease the health worker crisis in Africa and help the continent move toward WHO's goal of providing antiretroviral treatment to three million HIV-positive people in developing countries by the end of this year (PHR release, 6/29). The letter also calls for G8 countries to bolster national health systems, support and broaden health worker capacity, overcome macroeconomic challenges, address health worker needs in rich countries, support international organizations such as the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and ensure that donor programs are sound (PHR G8 letter, 6/29).