SEYCHELLES — In a strategic move to bolster its healthcare workforce and foster health diplomacy, Seychelles is fast-tracking the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Zambia.

This agreement will facilitate the recruitment of Zambian health professionals to work in the picturesque island nation.

The announcement came through a press statement from Seychelles’ Ministry of Health following a meeting between Minister Peggy Vidot and her Zambian counterpart, Sylvia Masebo.

The discussions occurred on the sidelines of the 73rd Regional Committee of the Africa region of the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the Ministry of Health, the MoU is poised to open doors for Seychellois health professionals to receive training in Zambia, bridging the healthcare expertise gap between the two nations. Seychelles has been grappling with a shortage of healthcare professionals, particularly doctors.

As per the Annual Health Sector Performance Report of 2022, Seychelles had 514 doctors on the register of the Seychelles Medical and Dental Council (SMDC) by the end of 2022.

However, only 22 percent of them were Seychellois nationals, with approximately 241 doctors actively practicing within Seychelles.

Seychelles’ commitment to providing free primary healthcare for all its citizens, as outlined in Article 29 of the Constitution, has heightened the need to augment its healthcare workforce.

On the other hand, Zambia, while facing a dire shortage of doctors, possesses limited government-run institutions for medical training.

With just four such institutions, including The University of Zambia and Levy Mwanawasa Medical University, the country’s capacity to produce healthcare professionals falls short of addressing its healthcare deficit.

To bridge this gap, Zambia has a few private universities offering medical education, but their output is insufficient to meet the growing demand for healthcare workers.

According to the National Human Resources for Health Strategic Plan for 2018–2024, the Zambian government has prioritized the absorption of health professionals by various sectors, including the government, private sector, and development partners, in the coming years.

Around 200 students graduate from Zambia’s two government-run medical training schools annually.

Highlighting the severity of Zambia’s healthcare shortage, data from the Ministry of Health reveals a shortfall of 3,000 doctors, with only 1,500 registered health practitioners in the country.

The WHO’s standard of one doctor per 5,000 people remains a distant goal for Zambia, with the current ratio standing at one doctor for every 12,000 patients.

Minister Vidot, during her meeting, emphasized the advantages of the MoU, stating, “With the MoU, Seychelles stands to benefit from a broader scope of cooperation, sharing of best practices, and capacity building.”

In addition to the collaboration with Zambia, Minister Vidot also met with Rwanda’s health minister, Sabin Nsanzimana, to further discussions initiated in June with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Both ministers agreed to facilitate a delegation visit from Seychelles to Rwanda, offering valuable insights into Rwanda’s healthcare training facilities, primary healthcare system, and electronic health information system.

Seychelles’ collaborative efforts with Rwanda and Zambia represent a fresh approach by the island nation’s Ministry of Health to engage with high-performing developing countries in a bid to enhance its healthcare capabilities.

These developments unfolded during the Seventy-third session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa, held in Gaborone, Botswana, from August 28 to September 1.

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