Low wages and poor working conditions drive Zimbabwean nurses to emigrate. 10% of Zimbabwe’s public hospital workforce emigrated in 2021 to Britain. While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signed an agreement with Rwanda to expel African migrants arriving on its shores, he is bringing in hundreds of nurses from Zimbabwe.

A strained healthcare system

Once praised for its efficiency, Zimbabwe’s health system is dying, like the country’s economy. In public hospitals, operating rooms are at a standstill for lack of lighting, patients are forced to pay for the refueling of their ambulance or to bring their own dressings and medicines. The ranking established by the World Health Organization (WHO) places Zimbabwe’s health system in 155th place in the world out of 190.

Exhausted and demoralized by 12-hour days in impoverished hospitals, a large number of nurses dream only of exile to leave an overburdened healthcare system without resources.

“The number of nurses is very insufficient. (…) It’s exhausting. And frustrating, because we can’t offer quality care.”

Virginia, nurse

at AFP

If Virginia, who is 52, is leaving, it’s to feed her family, “to pay for the schooling of his children” and “ensure retirement”she explains.

Salaries multiplied by ten

A simple English test is required to obtain a visa in the United Kingdom, where wages are ten times higher than the 190 euros per month paid on average in Zimbabwe. Since Brexit, immigration rules have changed to attract nurses and carers.

In Britain, the Covid-19 pandemic has created additional demand for nurses, especially as Brexit has reduced the number of those coming from Europe. The country should continue to hire in the years to come. According to a report published by the Health Foundation think tank, its health system (NIH) is facing a staff shortage of 90,000 employees. Of which some 42% are nurses.


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