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Zimbabwe Government Turns to U.N. to Assist Health Workers

File - In this February 18, 2021 photo, Zimbabwe vice president and Minister of Health Constantino Chiwenga holds up his vaccination certificate after receiving the first shot of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine from China.

The Zimbabwean government is turning to the United Nations for assistance with paying back training costs for its health workers.

Vice President and Health Minister, Constantine Chiwenga reports the cash-strapped nation spends over $350,000 a person to train its health workers. State media says that since independence in 1980, over 40% of health workers trained in Zimbabwe have exited the Southern African nation to work in South Africa, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere.

This, analysts argue, is one of the reasons why the country experiences a shortage of drugs and medical supplies.

Butho Nyathi of the Migrant Workers Association in South Africa attributes the exiting to Harare's failure to create attractive working conditions at home.

“They left because the government failed to provide them with a conducive work environment and the support they need to render proper care. These people were forced by the terrible work environment where they could not sustain their families.”

Over the past few years, Zimbabwean health workers have held several labor actions to protest low pay and a lack of medical supplies to care for patients. In October of 2020, Zimbabwean health practitioners were forced to challenge the country’s health ministry, including its moves to make it more difficult for them to seek employment abroad.

“You have seen how the government responds to strikes by doctors and nurses descending on them with a heavy hand," Nyathi said. "Professionals cannot stand such kind of rubbish from their own government.”

Nyathi’s sentiments are supported by political analyst Effie Ncube, who says attempts by the Zimbabwean government to get aid from the United Nations has little chance of success because of underlying conditions that motivate exits.

“Approaching the United Nations for such a thing is not only unprecedented but it won’t deliver what they expect. Zimbabweans leave fleeing the economic collapse of the country and political persecution and they go to other countries where they then work."