Malawi Halts Plan To ‘Export’ Unemployed Nurses

The Malawi Nurses Union is urging President Lazarus Chakwera to allow around 2,000 nurses to work in the United States and Saudi Arabia, after the government ordered the plan halted.

The National Organization of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi (NONM) announced the plan a month ago, saying nurses were forced to work overseas due to high unemployment in Malawi. The brain drain in the health sector has raised concerns and the Ministry of Labor on August 2 ordered the cancellation of the plan, saying the union had no legal mandate on labor migration . 

Malawi’s Minister of Labor Vera Kantukule told VOA on August 2 that the decision to put the plans on hold was taken after considering NONM was just a union for medical workers. 

“What we told them is if you want to do this thing then you probably have to register a separate identity that will do the recruiting but you, as you are, your tenure doesn’t allow you to engage in the work. migration,” Kantukule said. 

Kantukule said it was also necessary to have a memorandum of understanding between the countries where the nurses are going to work and the government of Malawi, before the nurses’ organization can proceed with their plans.

The Minister of Labor said Malawi was among the countries where the World Health Organization had imposed restrictions on the migration of medical workers. 

“Last time we got a request from Scotland. One of the hospitals in Scotland wanted to do it,” Kantukule said. “And the Scottish government received a response from the WHO saying ‘Malawi is on the list of countries where you cannot take their health personnel’.” 

Shouts Simeza, president of the Malawi Nurses Organization, said he was surprised by the ministry’s stance. 

“The minister can’t cancel this thing. The minister has no mandate to tell us we don’t have the mandate, that’s rude, actually,” Simeza said. “And it was the government that identified us as NONM to facilitate that. And the government has often said that they are not the only entity to recruit, so says the head of state Lazarus Chakwera , “job creation campaign. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.” 

Simeza said the decision to seek jobs for nurses overseas came because 3,000 Malawi-trained nurses are unemployed. 

Simeza said the previous arrangement was for the first group of 1,000 nurses to leave for Saudi Arabia this month. The plan is to send 1,000 each year for a five-year project. 

But he said there was a delay because they were awaiting guidance from various ministries, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Labor, on how to move forward. . 

“The team we send is made up of our members, our members,” Simeza said. “They’re not employed by a government department. So they don’t belong to any department, they don’t have one. So we went to seek advice from the Department of Labor on the safety and security of members who travel to the United States. [and] Saudi Arabia.” 

Malawi’s government recently said it could not recruit more nurses now, due to financial constraints. 

In an August 2 statement, a group of nurses and midwives in Malawi urged Chakwera to step in and stop the Ministry of Labor from stopping plans to send some of them overseas to work. .