Essential services in Zimbabwe are being decimated by brain drain as workers leave for higher-paying jobs abroad.
Harare City Council, which runs the Zimbabwean capital’s fire department, said the city lost 125 firefighters last year when they left to chase more lucrative jobs overseas.
Council spokesperson Innocent Ruwende told Al Jazeera that they left to chase more lucrative jobs overseas, mostly in Middle East Gulf states. He said:
Our firefighters are in demand because they are highly trained.
The appeal of a more lucrative, more stable payday abroad is an enticing proposition for many local essential service providers as they currently bring home $200 a month. Entry salaries abroad are somewhere in the region of $1 300-$1 500.
A 35-year-old Harare firefighter, Samuel Chikengezha, told Al Jazeera that he survives on borrowings from friends and family and is contemplating leaving Zimbabwe for a higher-paying job abroad. He said:
I want to leave the country. Every one of us wants to leave for other countries. We are all in waiting mode, really. Once an opportunity presents itself, I am out.
Since the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy two decades ago, millions of Zimbabweans have left the country to flee from the biting economy characterised by stagnant salaries, scarcity of foreign currency, and diminishing purchasing power of the local currency.
Manufacturing is low, and poverty is rising along with prices for everything, including essentials like food and fuel.
Brain drain is affecting all sectors including the healthcare sector amid increasing demand for healthcare workers around the globe due to the pandemic.
State media reports that Zimbabwe lost some 2 000 healthcare professionals last year which is more than double the exodus rate of 2020.
The President of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, Enock Dongo, told Al Jazeera that poor remuneration and working conditions are compelling more nurses to seek positions outside of the Southern African nation, where nurses earn less than $200 a month.
As brain drain intensifies, there is a public outcry over poor service delivery. Pregnant women in Glen View and Budiriro, both high-density suburbs south of Harare, no longer have antenatal care at speciality clinics because there are no nurses on staff to provide those services.
More: Al Jazeera