Poorly-paid Healthcare Workers Leaving Africa

04:58 June 15, 2024

Poorly-paid Healthcare Workers Leaving Africa

Cameroon has one of the world's lowest amounts of health care workers per capita. About a third of trained doctors who completed medical school last year left the West African country. Many doctors and nurses are leaving for more well-paying jobs in Europe and North America, including Canada.

Canada, like Cameroon, has official languages of English and French.

After training as a nurse, Nevielle Leinyuy spent almost 10 years in Cameroon working as a front desk worker. He was unable to find a well-paying job in the medical field. Last year, he applied for a nursing program in Canada. He now lives there with his wife and children.

“They are stealing us from Cameroon. We want to work in Cameroon but there is no pay,” the 39-year-old Leinyuy said.

He said he would have earned less than $100 a month working as a nurse in Cameroon.

Cameroon is not the only sub-Saharan African country where low pay is causing health workers to leave.

The number of health workers increased in several countries after the COVID-19 pandemic. But almost 75 percent of African nations still experience medical worker shortages and high rates of healthcare workers leaving to work overseas. That information comes from a 2023 report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The lack of health workers makes it difficult to deal with infant mortality and infectious diseases. It also makes it hard to provide services like vaccinations, said Matshidiso Moeti. He is the WHO regional director for Africa.

Cameroon has fewer than seven nurses per 10,000 people, the latest WHO data found. Neighboring Nigeria has more than double that amount. Canada has more than 14 times that number.

Marie-Pier Burelle is a spokesperson for Health Canada. She told The Associated Press that Canada is facing its own health workforce shortages. The country has 30,000 nursing positions it needs to fill, says Statistics Canada.

Burelle said Canada follows the WHO’s code of practice to make sure its recruitment of workers internationally is ethical. Ethical recruitment includes strengthening the health systems of developing countries dealing with medical worker shortages.

Late last year, the Canadian government donated around $2.2 million to Cameroon's health ministry. It also delivered medical and monitoring equipment as part of Canada's Global Initiative for Vaccine Equity.

But such support falls short of Cameroon’s needs.

Cameroon’s government employs around 100 doctors each year for a population of around 28 million people, said Dr. Peter Louis Ndifor. He is the vice president of the Cameroon Medical Council, a doctors association.

The Canadian province of Nova Scotia, by comparison, has a population of under a million people. It recruited around 155 doctors last year, health officials say.

The shortage of health workers is just part of Cameroon's current health crisis.

More than 210 health centers closed because of destruction or abandonment during a conflict in the country's west, the United Nations says. The conflict has killed thousands of people over the past several years.

Tumenta Kennedy is a Cameroon-based migration expert. He says Canada has become an attractive place because Canadian agencies target local doctors and nurses. Family ties overseas also play a part.

Canadian government immigration programs like the Federal Skilled Worker Program or Express Entry are gaining in popularity. Cameroonians are among the top nationalities applying for Express Entry, the program's latest report found.

I’m Dan Novak.

Google Play VOA Learning English - Digdok