Skilled Sudanese medical workers seek better opportunities abroad

AFP-JIJI

Asaad Abdulmajid is saying goodbye to Sudan and its crisis-hit economy after having found a job in Saudi Arabia with a salary he says is more than 20 times what he earned from a government hospital at home.

Abdulmajid, 29, has joined tens of thousands of Sudanese medical workers, technicians, academics and others fleeing the country for better opportunities abroad, according to official statistics.

“In Sudan, my total monthly salary was 600 (Sudanese) pounds (about $85 on the black market),” the doctor said at a government office crowded with Sudanese completing their paperwork to emigrate.

“Now I have a contract with a private hospital in Saudi Arabia that will pay me 8,000 rials ($2,100),” he said.

The mounting exodus among medical workers is “a real brain drain from Sudan,” said El Sheikh Badr, a doctor with the Health Ministry.

The outflow coincides with a worsening economy since South Sudan separated nearly two years ago, taking with it about 75 percent of united Sudan’s oil production.

Sudan’s currency, the pound, has lost about 40 percent of its value on the black market since late 2011, and inflation reached 43 percent in January. Estimates of unemployment range up to 40 percent.

More than 94,000 workers left Sudan last year, compared with about 10,000 in 2008, according to a Labor Ministry study.

It highlighted a rising number of migrants in the higher education, health and technical sectors, although these skilled categories are still a minority among those leaving.

University of Khartoum economist Mohammed Eljack Ahmed said jobs in government institutions are often believed to be allocated on political, tribal or ethnic grounds rather than merit, an “injustice” driving away members of the intelligentsia.

At the same time, the government spends a negligible proportion of its budget on education and health.

The majority of Sudanese government spending goes toward security and defense.

According to the Labor Ministry study, 1,620 doctors left Sudan last year compared with 338 in 2008.

Nurses and other skilled health workers are also moving abroad as part of what Badr called “massive migratory flows” of medical personnel.

Labor Ministry figures show Saudi Arabia is the largest beneficiary of Sudanese migrants but thousands have also left for the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Libya and elsewhere.