Addressing the Brain Drain of Health Professionals in Nigeria

Ikhide, Emily (2021-07)

Working Paper

Nigeria currently has 38 doctors per 100,000 population, far short of the WHO standard of 166 doctors per 100,000 population. The low doctor-to-population ratio is further aggravated by the high emigration of medical doctors, with about half of Nigerian-trained doctors practicing abroad. The push factors responsible for this include poor salaries and working conditions, and inadequate medical facilities and infrastructure, while the pull factors include better working conditions, prospects of higher salaries and higher quality of life abroad. A 2018 analysis by Mo Ibrahim Foundation shows that the cost of training a medical doctor in Nigeria is estimated at between $21,000 and $51,000; and nine countries, including Nigeria, lost over $2 billion between 2010 and 2017 as a result of trained doctors migrating abroad. Emigration of medical doctors would also undermine Nigeria’s ability to attain most of the health-related SDGs. The National Assembly may collaborate with State Assemblies to ensure that Nigeria comply with the 2001 Abuja Declaration’s threshold of 15% of the total national budget to the health sector. Increased health expenditure and its efficient use are likely to translate to better salaries for doctors, provision of adequate medical and health facilities, and enhanced continuous training and career development for medical personnel. In other words, the government may create an enabling environment for medical practice in Nigeria. There is also the need for proper implementation of extant regulations guiding the terms of service of medical personnel whose medical education are fully or partly financed by the government.