Blantyre, Malawi — At a rally Friday in the southern city of Blantyre, unemployed nurses called for more jobs and gave Malawi’s president 14 days to help them find new opportunities for work.
Frank Kamwendo, the chairperson of concerned nurses, said the demonstrations were a last resort after several meetings with Malawi government officials.
“We have been trying our level best to discuss with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of local government to recruit more than 2,260 nursing officers,” said Kamwendo. “Unfortunately, these ministries have been telling us that there are no funds for recruitment.”
Kamwendo said the nurses have also tried in vain to get the government to help them work in other countries.
Thousands without jobs
Government statistics show that Malawi has about 3,000 unemployed nurses and 160 vacant positions for nurses in public medical facilities.
Last year, Malawi’s government stopped a plan by the National Organization of Nurses and Midwives that could have helped some 2,000 unemployed nurses find work in the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Ministry of Labor authorities said the organization has no legal mandate to export labor.
Shouts Simez, the president of the National Organization of Nurses and Midwives in Malawi, told VOA that there are now positive signs that the situation will soon be better for unemployed nurses.
“I am happy to share that the approach has changed now because now it’s from the Ministry of Labor to the Ministry of Trade and Industry,” said Simeza. “So, the Ministry of Trade and Industry is looking at exporting services. Nursing is one of the services that can be exported.”
Simeza said his organization is part of the group including the Ministry of Trade that is working on a legal framework for exporting services.
“When the Ministry of Labor said, ‘No you cannot do this,’ I ended up agreeing because we did not have the guidelines, meaning that if we had to send nurses or midwives to work in the diaspora, they were not going to be safe and protected,” said Simeza. “That’s now where the issues of exploitation were going to come in.”
Protesters threaten to stage vigils
However, the demonstrators delivered a petition to the office of a Blantyre district commissioner and threatened to hold vigils at the State House to pressure authorities into action.
Director for the Blantyre District Council, Rejison Nkolobwe, promised to deliver the petition to the responsible authorities for action.
“Our duty as DC for Blantyre is to take this petition and forward it to the relevant authorities, which is the office of president and cabinet,” said Nkolobwe.
While government authorities have not formally responded to the unemployed nurses’ demands, Simeza said he hopes the demonstration will help push the government to fast-track the process of putting in place guidelines on labor migration.