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Uganda anger at medic brain drain

16 April 2015, 06:54

Kampala - A Ugandan court dismissed on Wednesday an injunction sought by furious activists trying to prevent the controversial "export" of over 250 medics to the Caribbean.

A plan to send over 250 health professionals from the east African country, itself plagued by a major shortage of doctors and nurses, to Trinidad and Tobago has been labelled a "crime against humanity" by a Ugandan think-tank, the Institute of Public Policy and Research (IPPR).

They sought an injunction in the country's High Court to block the "state-facilitated medical brain drain", which they said violated citizens' right to healthcare.

But Justice Elizabeth Musoke dismissed their application, ruling that while the prospect of losing the doctors, nurses and specialists was "grim", it was up to the government to decide.

"It remains a political decision, which would ordinarily have nothing to do with courts," Musoke said.

IPPR director Justinian Kateera described the decision as "shocking" and "a travesty".

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"It hurts citizens, it is a life and death issue," he told AFP, adding activists would appeal, but that he feared the medics would leave for the Caribbean in the meantime.

The state has argued it was a constitutionally guaranteed right of all Ugandan workers to seek employment anywhere.

Officials have said the scheme was merely part of the country's bilateral cooperation with Trinidad and Tobago, from which Uganda has also benefited - with aid such as oil and gas industry training and financial support for its police

But it has been criticised by the United States, which gives $400m in aid to Uganda's health sector every year.

In mid-March Belgium threatened to cut $12m in aid over the plans which they said "would considerably weaken Uganda's health system."

Last week activists petitioned Uganda's parliamentary speaker Rebecca Kadaga over the export.

She said it "didn't make sense" to export 100 midwives when 16 women die everyday in Uganda through childbirth related complications, and promised to move a parliamentary motion on the matter.

The foreign affairs ministry has said it is waiting for cabinet to have the final say, but it is "confident" the transfer, which it argued would help address Uganda's huge youth unemployment problem, would go ahead.



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