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There are more Ethiopian doctors in U.S. than in Ethiopia

Africa Hard Hit by Health Worker Gap


(AP) KAMPALA, Uganda – Every week, Charity Kiconco drives hundreds of miles down some of the world’s worst roads on a motorbike, bringing drugs and counseling to hundreds of AIDS patients.

What the 26-year-old Kiconco lacks in medical training, she makes up for in commitment.

“It’s a hard job. It’s exhausting both physically and mentally,” she said. “But then you see the difference you make to someone’s life and it’s worth it somehow.”

Deploying workers like Kiconco trained in key tasks but without the range of qualifications of a nurse or doctor is one way of addressing a global health care shortage that is hitting African and other developing nations hardest.

Experts gathered in Uganda this week to discuss the problem also considered asking rich countries — which often benefit from the migration of health care workers — to compensate poorer nations for the staff they recruit and to pay to train health workers in the developing world.

The long-term goal, though, was galvanizing the funding and political will to radically expand the education and training of health workers in the developed and developing world.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 4 million more health workers are needed worldwide to improve health systems and achieve international health and development goals. The gap is felt keenly in Africa, which carries 25 percent of the global disease burden yet has only 3 percent of the world’s health workers and 1 percent of its economic resources.

“What’s the use in having medicines if we don’t have health workers to take it to the patients and ensure it’s taken correctly?” asked Miriam Were, the head of the African Medical and Research Foundation.

Were previously worked as a teacher in Kenya but switched to medicine when she saw how many of her students missed classes due to preventable illnesses like diarrhea and malaria.

More typically, though, the movement is not from teaching to medicine, but out of Africa. For overworked and underpaid workers in developing countries, migration is often an appealing option.

The Global Health Workforce Alliance — organizers of this week’s conference in Uganda — says a physician in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia might earn only $100 per month, but could earn $14,000 monthly in some developed countries. One in four doctors trained in sub-Saharan Africa works in a developing country.

“There are more Ethiopian doctors on the east coast of America than there are in Ethiopia,” Were said.

According to figures published in the British medical journal The Lancet, the U.S. has 9.37 nurses per 1,000 people and Uganda has just 0.55. But even the United States is facing a shortage, according to organizers of the Uganda conference, needing 800,000 nurses and 200,000 doctors.

“Better working conditions at home would be a massive factor in mitigating migration but these countries don’t have money,” said Dr. Francis Omaswa, executive director of the Global Health Workforce Alliance. Rich countries should invest in training, he said, “so that we have a big enough pool of health workers to share between all of us.”

Interim measures such as the training and use of community volunteers are being tried in many sub-Saharan and Asian countries.

Working in Uganda for a national charity called The AIDS Support Organization, Kiconco drives to drug distribution centers in rural areas and works with volunteers to mobilize patients to pick up their medication — rather than having to make home deliveries.

Volunteers, themselves HIV-positive, have been trained in basic counseling and are provided with bikes. Competitive salaries, loan programs and training programs as well as a relaxed and informal working environment keep morale high.

“You would need to at least double my salary before I would think about leaving because this place has such a good working environment,” said Emmanuel Odeke, a doctor with the organization.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)

14 thoughts on “There are more Ethiopian doctors in U.S. than in Ethiopia

  1. There are more Woyane Cadres in US than Ethiopia.

    Makes me wonder IF the cadres really belive Woyane is a democrat regime what the hell are they doing in USA (Aigaforum, Civility Room,HagerFeker”Hager Telat” & EthioLion “EthioDEMET”

  2. Destined never to see one’s own country!

    Most Ethiopian professionals in various fields who live abroad would like, I’m sure, to go back to their country – Ethiopia – and serve the Ethiopian people with less money but with more energy and dedication if Ethiopia has had a government that cares for the professionals and the common people of Ethiopia.

    It is true there are more Ethiopian doctors, more Ethiopian teachers, more Ethiopian engineers, more Ethiopian technicians, more Ethiopian taxi drivers, more Ethiopian custodians, and more Ethiopian factory workers abroad than they are in Ethiopia. These Ethiopian professionals and hard working individuals left their country and went abroad to get their educations; many of them got their educations but preferred to stay where they are to going to their country for fear of losing their natural freedom –to think freely, to choose what they want, to move freely where they want to, and to speak out their own minds. Of course, they love their country; they love the tradition, the culture, the history of their country, and they love their Ethiopian food: injera and wat.

    Yes, Ethiopian teachers want to go back and teach the Ethiopian students; Ethiopian doctors want to go back and take care of the sick, the wounded, and those who are at their death bed; Ethiopian engineers want to go back to Ethiopia and build the bridges, the highways, the Churches, the Mosques, the Synagogues, and repair the crumbling houses in Addis Ababa; Ethiopian technicians want to go back to Ethiopia and mend the computers, the televisions, the cell phones, the cars, the bicycles, the microwaves, the dish-washing machines, the telephone cables, and the radios; the Ethiopian taxi drivers want to go back to Ethiopia to transport the ordinary Ethiopian citizens from their homes to the market place to the church to the hospitals to the court, and to many other places with less money; the Ethiopian custodians want to go back to Ethiopia and clean the rest rooms, the living rooms, the kitchens, and vacuum the carpets; the Ethiopian factory workers want to go back to Ethiopia and work in the Ethiopian sugar factory, cotton factory, glass factory, cement factory, shoe factory, and animal hide factory. So what is preventing them from going home, and why are they staying in a foreign country for too long? Some of them are citizens of the country where they have been living in for many years and are well settled, and their prospect of going back to Ethiopia is less important to them than staying in their second country. They still want to go back to their country at least for a visit, and some of them do if they have not embarrassed the Woyanne government by speaking out or by commenting against that oppressive regime. Some of these other Ethiopians still struggle between becoming citizens of another country and not trying to change their Ethiopian citizenship and hoping to go back when the Ethiopian present government is replaced by a democratically elected one.

    The other problem facing some Ethiopians to go or not to go to their country is that some of them have children born outside Ethiopia and who do not speak Amharic or Oromo or Tigrigna, so the dads and the moms of these foreign born children want to stay until their children are done with their education, and when they are done, it doesn’t mean they are returning to Ethiopia. They may find high-paying jobs here, and they may never go back to Ethiopia.

    However, the most humiliating problem that prevented some Ethiopians from returning to their country is age. These Ethiopians may have come to America in their 20s and 30s, but they are now in their 60s and 70s. At this age, going back to Ethiopia may be easy, but adjusting oneself to the new Ethiopian generation will be difficult if not impossible. Their primary physicians are in America; they have pensions in America; they have houses in America, and they and their children are American citizens. Therefore, it is better by far to stay, die, and get buried where they are than going back to Ethiopia and start a new life at an advanced age.

    Of course, the memory of that beautiful country – Ethiopia and its people – will never leave them until they die with their old Ethiopian memory and their new American, German, British, Russian or Indian memories. Then their children will tell to their children that their fathers and their mothers were from Ethiopia, particularly from the Amhara tribe or from the Oromo tribe or from the Tigray tribe, and that is the only legacy they would leave to their children, and their children’s children to their children. They never thought this would happen to them when they left their country at the young age; their goals then were to get their education in this or other country and to go back to Ethiopia and serve their people, but it didn’t work out that way.

    What makes them happy though is that their children have gotten their educations and are enjoying the American dreams: owning houses, owning cars, and above all exercising their rights and their freedoms, so they should not be sad because they have lost their original country for ever. God has given them another beautiful country – America or England, or Canada, or Germany. Thus they should abide by the law of the land and live a godly life they may never have achieved had they ever lived in Ethiopia.

    ethio#1 replies:

    Well said! And I definitely agree with you.I would proudly serve my country and people in every way if there is a gov’t who cares about his people. but unfortunately our gov’t is just a pet to the western government! sad..but true.

  3. Ethiopia will not stay poor for ever. One day Ethiopia will grow with the mind of dedicated Ethiopian who put Ethiopia first and by then those who contribute nothing will feel shame.

  4. We just need selfless and responsible professionals. I don’t think really the reasons that are given not to go back to the country is conviencing enough for ones who really, really love their country!

    You know what I think?!?! What we love is only the map of Ethiopia and don’t realize that Ethiopia is the Ethiopian!!!!

  5. who believes them if they say we r doctors? rather they r killers for me who kills the poor people for money. it is better to say they are doctors for who has money.
    but, i want to ask “what about the poor peoples, what about us?” you just see when we die coz we don’t have money? i thought they are educated, but now i know that i made a big mistake to think that.
    am sorry for them!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Make no mistake my fellow people, that the country – Ethiopia- or its people I should say, are at times hostile to its own fellow Ethiopians, and we find our selves in a position of no choice but flee the country to save our life and our beloved ones.
    Let me tell you this, my friends,
    In my particular case,I was forced to leave the country because of my ethnicity and the “color of my eyes” as the prime minister put it in his TV interview in 1998. I had no intension what so ever,to leave my country,ever, as I loved my people more than life itself, I remember the gratifying feeling tha I used to have when ever I save some ones life (with the help of God)

    In any case, Thank God this country we call USA,is receptive and took us with open hands and helped us integrate to the system and practice our profession with no difficulty at all. As long as I practice medicine and I was forced to leave my country for this or that reason, I feel no regrets what so ever,in practicing medicine here in the US.

    Tell me who on earth would like to come to the US had it not been for political and other social reasons.

    I am happy and proud to be an american.
    Not so proud to be Ethiopian,any more after me and my fellow professionals were rejected by the society and the current rulers.

    It takes no rocket scientist to guess what the heck a government would expel a medical doctor from their country (after spending thousands if not millions of birr) on their training,silly decision in deed.
    The US government is kind enough to give us a resting place and even process our citizen ship,what a contrast.

  7. I am an orthopedic surgeon who just finished my residency in the states. I am a product of hard work of the “american dream.” I am ethiopian american but hailed from single parent. She came to US 40 yrs ago and paved the way for me in the US. My mother is in her 60’s. She worked hard her entire life and I saw that growing up. That put something in my life to succeed and pursue to help my family/country. I hope I had made her so proud. She still does not show it which tells me that I am not done yet. I will take care of her and our motherland ethiopia. MAY GOD HELP ME AND BE MY GUIDE IN THIS JOURNEY.

  8. When I heard ” There are more Ethiopian doctors in East coast of USA than there are in their country…”. Ethiopian tax payers paid for their educations to serve their country Ethiopia BUT 4 out of the students interviewed by BBC were desperate to fly to USA with out even they finish their internship.

    One way the Ethiopian government can at lease recover its self centered grab & run graduates, in my opinion is to convince US authorities that they are brain drain the young talents from extremely poor country Ethiopia and they should invest in Ethiopia Primary Care health service. In that way America can compensate partially for the brain drain they suck from Ethiopia.

    What do you think?

  9. don,t blame them they need freedom , freedom is power to do things
    it is all about the result of our dirty poetics why our physician go abroad unless we improve it they will go then on wards
    so please people don,t blame our golden physician

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