The World Health Organization (WHO) says sub-Saharan Africa bears 25 percent of the global burden of all killer diseases. Yet the continent looses about 20 thousand nurses and health-care workers each year to richer countries. Musu Kandeh is a nurse from Sierra Leone and Etta Kutu-Akoi is a nursing technician from Liberia. They both work for Montgomery General Hospital, a hospital in the Washington Metropolitan area. Voice of America English to Africa reporter James Butty spoke with the two nurses about their work and healthcare concerns for the African continent.
Etta Akoi began the conversation by stating her understanding of the phrase the “African brain drain.” “It’s like professionals leaving their country where they are most needed, and they rendering services in other countries. But I don’t think it was my choice to just leave Liberia. I like my job, like I said, but because of the war, that’s why I came here.”
Etta feels the brain drain in her native Liberia can be reversed if the post-war economy improves. She says once that happens, she looks forward to returning home one day.
Musu says Africa can balance its healthcare needs and the financial security of its healthcare workers by seeking help from outsiders and helping themselves. “It would be nice to see if we can get some kind of help, maybe from America. I know they have organizations that can help us…So it would be nice if even us, the Sierra Leoneans here come together as one and put together some kind of a plan and take it back home to help those who are less fortunate.”
Both Etta and Musu say even though financial security should be of concern, medical practitioners in Africa should put the profession first.
Musu says, “Money is not everything. When somebody is sick and you come to their aid and take care of them, when they get better they come back to say thank you, that means a whole lot than a million dollars. It is a good feeling to know that you help somebody, and I believe they should also give a helping hand and sometimes just look away from the money.”
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