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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Malawi crippled by nursing crisis

By Hilary Andersson
BBC correspondent in Lilongwe

Malawi is facing a health crisis as trained nurses leave to seek better wages abroad.

Malawi is facing a deepening health crisis as many nurses leave
More than half come to Britain to work for the NHS and private hospitals.

Last year over 12,000 nurses from outside the European Union registered to work in the UK.

In contrast Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, trains around 60 nurses each year.

But each year at least 100 others leave to work in other countries.

Hlalapi Kunkeyani is one of those considering applying for a job in Britain.

She works in one of Malawi's biggest hospitals, which used to have over 500 nurses - over half of whom have now left.

Hlalapi is one of only two nurses who work on the maternity ward and try to cope with 40 births a day.

She earns 1 for a 10-hour shift and can barely afford her children's school fees.

"This is my application form. I really want to go. I am in the process of making it to be right so that I should leave this country. I am tired."

Health crisis

Lack of basic care means people in Malawi regularly die of perfectly curable illnesses.

This grim reality is devastating for the people here in the wards and for the country as a whole.

Malawi is in the middle of a health crisis of staggering proportions.

The HIV virus, and all the horrors that spells, is rampant here and life expectancy has dropped to just 38 years old.

In Malawi people are regularly killed by curable diseases

Medical staff are needed more than ever for this growing emergency, but there aren't even enough for the basics.

Paulini Gerald has been sleeping on the floor since she delivered last week. Her child was stillborn.

She begged for help before the birth, but got none.

"Not one nurse has seen me since that day," she said. "I've been given no medicine. They can't even find my file."

Malawi's government has had to make some tough choices in order to retain staff.

Malawi Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba said: "We have got to face the situation by training a lot more of our nurses at the other level, where they will not be marketable in the UK, US and other countries.

"I wouldn't say underqualified, but they are trained, qualified enough to meet the skill requirements of looking after our patients."

'Why I came to the UK to nurse'
11 May 04  |  Health
Country profile: Malawi
20 Jul 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Malawi
08 Jun 04  |  Country profiles

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