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Zimbabwe’s Essential Workers Leave for the UK

The United Kingdom, which is buckling under a deepening shortage of nurses and teachers after exiting the European Union, is raiding, among other countries, its former colony Zimbabwe for key public sector workers: nurses, doctors and teachers. This is cruel. It appears unstoppable. Yet it also captures a vicious cycle in which foreign aid meant to help countries like Zimbabwe strengthen their education and health systems is undermined by migration of trained talent to those very same donor nations. More than 4,000 nurses and doctors have left Zimbabwe since February 2021. The UK is by far the destination of choice: data from the British Home Office in 2022 reveals that Zimbabwe is now in the top five skilled worker visa recipient countries. This is a big drain. According to the Zimbabwe Medical Association, the country has a paltry 3,500 doctors for a population of 15 million people. Access to nurses is poor, too — just 2.6 per 1,000 people as of 2017, reveals the World Bank. In a key 1,000-bed public hospital, managers told reporters that services were crippled when dozens of nurses and doctors left for the UK in 2021. Of course, the UK — like any other country — must look after its interests first. But the imbalance between a $3.2 trillion economy (the UK) and a $28bn economy (Zimbabwe) is such that the scramble for medical personnel isn’t a fair contest.