Striking Zimbabwe doctors defy order to resume work

Doctors striking in Zimbabwe for pay hikes defied a government order to resume work on Monday
Doctors and medical staff march to Zimbabwe’s Parliament on September 19, 2019 in Harare with a petition demanding the safe return of Peter Magombeyi, a doctors’ union leader who has been missing since September 14 at night, after he sent a WhatsApp message saying he had been “kidnapped by three men”, according to the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA). – Demonstrator believe he was taken because of his role in organising strikes to demand better pay and working conditions. Doctors are paid less than $200 (180 euros) per month in Zimbabwe, a country still struggling with hyperinflation and fuel and food shortages after decades of economic crisis under former president, who died a week ago. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Doctors striking in Zimbabwe for pay hikes defied a government order to resume work on Monday and asked the UN and private businesses to help fund their return to the wards. 

The doctors are in the second month of a strike over salaries which have dwindled to  less than $100 per month in some cases as a result of galloping inflation.

They say their pay has lost value by at least 1,500 percent.

In a statement, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) said they have used up their savings by “subsidising the employer” for them to just report for work.

Negotiations with the government have been deadlocked as the doctors rejected a 60 percent pay increase and demanded their salaries be pegged to the US dollar.

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Health Minister Obadiah Moyo at the weekend ordered the medics to return to work, warning them with unspecified disciplinary action if they did not comply.

The government has adopted a ham-fisted response to the strike, now in its 34th day. 

Last month, police tried to stop the doctors from marching to parliament, until a court allowed the protest.

The leader of the doctors’ union Peter Magombeyi was last month abducted by suspected federal agents, only to be released five days later after pressure from his colleagues. 

The government tried to block him from travelling to neighbouring South Africa for treatment after local doctors recommended further medical assessment.

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He was only allowed to leave following another court order.

The striking doctors have appealed to the World Health Organization (WHO), local businesses, churches and NGOs to help raise funding to supplement their wages.

“Lives are being lost and there is a need to urgently raise resources to supplement… the salaries of 1,800 government-employed doctors,” they said.

Read Also: Court rules Zimbabwe doctor free to travel abroad after kidnapping

Should the UN heed the doctors’ call, it will not be the first time it has supported health personnel in the crisis-ridden country.

UNICEF ran a so-called Health Transition Fund, a multi-donor pooled fund for four years from 2011, paying out allowances to augment medical practitioners’ salaries.

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