Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Aids orphans and poaching

Finally at this late stage, the Department of Social Development, is drawing up a plan to deal with aids orphans in South Africa. There are around 85 000 child headed households in the country which translates into around 1 million aids orphans. This number is projected to rise to around 5 million by 2015.

Many aids orphans fall between the cracks of society, they are often ostracized by their communities, and I can’t even imagine the psychological scars that must be incurred by having to grow up alone, without the emotional support of parental love and affection. They are also at risk of malnutrition, physical and sexual abuse, exploitation and exposure to HIV infection, many are being used as labourers and either never attend school or drop out. This is happening in our midst and as a society we don’t seem to care.

One day these children are going to grow up, a second so called “lost generation” following on the heels of the youth who lost out on their education due to the apartheid struggle. They will be uneducated, most likely unemployed, maybe socially maladjusted and may well be forced into crime to survive.

South Africa does not currently have any regulations in place that specifically address the needs orphans and vulnerable children. One of the major challenges in tackling the orphan crisis is the lack of human resources in the public social services and NGO sectors, as well as the fact that existing staff are poorly paid.

What makes the staff shortage even more upsetting is the fact that so many medical professionals are poached from South Africa, and other African countries by the rich countries who can afford to pay them more. African countries then have to get expensive technical expertise from overseas, usually in the form of aid, and that money goes back to the donor country taking a huge percentage of aid budgets. It is completely pointless for the West to give aid to Africa if they then systematically rob them of the skilled people who have the ability to prevent and treat disease. A recent report by the British Medical Association (BMA) says that two-thirds of the doctors and 40 % of the nurses who entered the British job market last year were trained outside Britain, many of them in Africa.

"In 2003, 5,880 work permits were granted to doctors and nurses from South Africa, 2,825 from Zimbabwe, 1,510 from Nigeria, and 850 from Ghana. Matching the criticism from the BMA was the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which reported that 55,000 foreign nurses, including 16,000 from Africa, had been recruited in Britain since 1999. Such recruitment provides a considerable saving for the British economy. The BMA said it would have cost the British government 1.95 billion pounds, or 3.4 billion dollars, to train the same number of doctors and nurses who came from sub-Saharan Africa since 1999. The figure far exceeds the 560 million pounds given to African hospitals over the same period by the international development ministry.” (More)

Amazingly, in Birmingham, the second most populous city in the UK, there are now more nurses from Malawi than in Malawi itself.

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