A tug of war over Uganda's health workers

By Andrew Green 18 May 2015

A health worker in Uganda. Uganda faces widespread health worker shortages. Photo by: IICD / CC BY

The monthslong tug of war between Ugandan officials and health activists over a government agreement to export health workers continues, despite a court’s recent refusal to block the move.

Advocates say the plan, which calls for the government to send 263 doctors, nurses and midwives to Trinidad and Tobago, constitutes a state-sanctioned “brain drain” of the health system that could reverse recent health system gains. They intend to ask the country’s constitutional court to decide that fulfilling the agreement violates Ugandan citizens’ implicit right to health.

Government officials argue Uganda has health workers to spare. But in a country with some of the world’s worst health indicators, activists say the public medical system can ill afford to lose any trained staff.

Development partners, worried their support for Uganda’s health system would effectively be used to benefit another country, have also signaled their displeasure with the plan. In March, the Belgian government suspended 11 million euros ($12.6 million) in direct aid that was intended for Uganda’s health sector.

This article is for Devex Members
For full access to the content of the article sign in or join Devex.

About the author

Andrew Green@_andrew_green

Andrew is a print and radio reporter (and occasional photographer) based in East Africa. He writes often from the region on issues of health and human rights. He has also worked as Voice of America’s South Sudan bureau chief and as the Center for Public Integrity’s Web editor.

Join the Discussion