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Zim Nurses Set to Walk Monday

FILE: Nurses attend to a patient lying on a hospital bed in a medical ward at a local hospital in Harare on April 26, 2022. - Low salaries and poor working conditions are driving Zimbabwean nurses and nurse aides to emigrate.

Zimbabwean nurses unions said on Thursday their members would strike next week to protest at poor salaries and working conditions, the second walk-out by nurses since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The government and health workers are at an impasse over pay, as inflation in Zimbabwe jumped to 131.7% in May, a grim echo of the hyperinflation that wiped out everyone's savings a decade ago.

"Our members will not be able to turn up for duty starting on Monday June 20," Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union president Robert Chiduku said in a letter addressed to the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.

Chiduku said the union had "combined forces with our sister unions. The mood is people are fed up. Our salaries are pathetic", Chiduku told Reuters.

Nurses in Zimbabwe are paid 30,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($79.37) a month, the unions say.

Enock Dongo, head of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina), said he was mobilizing members for the strike, but was waiting to hear a response from them before declaring that they would join in.

The last strike, in 2020, forced hospitals to turn away patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

A strike would further cripple a health sector already understaffed by nurses leaving to work in the West.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.