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East Africa

Tanzania to send 500 doctors to Kenya following end to strike

Tanzania has announced a plan to send 500 doctors to Kenya after a doctors' strike paralyzed health services in the neighboring country for months.

Kenyan doctors striking

On January 26 in Nairobi, Kenyan doctors gathered en masse to insist that the labor conditions negotiated in 2013 be fulfilled

Tanzanian President John Magufuli announced the plan to send 500 doctors to neighboring Kenya after meeting with a Kenyan delegation in Dar es Salaam.

"The difficulties of Kenya are the difficulties of Tanzania. We agree to send you these 500 doctors to provide care to our brothers," Magufuli said in a statement expressing solidarity with the East African neighbor.

Some 5,000 doctors who work at Kenya's public hospitals began a strike in December to demand higher pay and better conditions. A deal was struck this week and opened the way to negotiations to end the strike, but many doctors are still not back at work.

"Tanzania has accepted Kenya's request for 500 doctors to help the country deal with a shortage of doctors at its medical centers following a doctors' strike," the statement from Magufuli's office said.

The government offered no further information as to when the doctors would be deployed or how long they would stay in Kenya.

Tanzanian Health Minister Umy Mwalimu said that the doctors would be sent to Kenya "as soon as possible."

A long strike now over

Kenya's doctors went on strike in public hospitals last December over the failure by the government to raise pay and to demand an improvement of working conditions for doctors and patients.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli

Tanzanian President John Magufuli

The strike meant that many public hospitals, already stretched for cash and materials, had to turn away patients. The situation threatened to undermine Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's bid for a second term in August.

"We have concluded a return-to-work formula between the government and ourselves bringing to an end the strike by doctors that has consumed the country for 100 days," said Ouma Oluga, the head of Kenya's main doctors union, the KMPDU.

On Friday, there were only two doctors on duty at the Kenyatta National Hospital, the biggest public hospital in the country, a nurse told a Reuters reporter.

ot/kl (AFP/Reuters)

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