Nurses Working in Volatile Regions Remain at Risk
KOCHI: The crisis of Malayali nurses following the outbreak of civil war in Iraq should not be taken lightly and a coordinated action to ensure the safety and security of them should be given top priority, as 59 percent of the working women among Non-Resident Keralites (NRK) are nurses.
The majority of these nurses are working in high-risk potential war zones such as Iraq, Libya, Congo, Senegal, Nigeria and Ethiopia. What is more painful to note is that neither the state nor the central government has a clear idea about the number of nurses working across the globe. Many nurses from Kerala were not recruited directly to these countries. First, they were taken to Kuwait and UAE and later transported to volatile regions which has made them untraceable.
“If something happens to these nurses like the one in Iraq, their security is at stake as nothing can guarantee their protection”, said K V Abdul Khader MLA, general secretary, Kerala Pravasi Sangam. The data published by the Kerala Economics and Statistics department, estimates the total working women from Kerala working overseas are 99,326 out of which 58,559 are nurses.
Majority of these nurses are from Kottayam (22,585), Ernakulam (16,322) and Pathanamthitta (14,395) districts. Though majority of the female nurses from Kerala work in Saudi Arabia (20 percent) and UK (13 percent), the shattered lot in West Asia and African countries is a cause of concern as no accurate data about them is available.
“Since the 46 nurses were abducted by the rebels, their rescue culminated in a fast-paced climax. There are many more still trapped in Iraq. To my knowledge, six female nurses are still stranded at the Haditha General Hospital. As there is some appreciable quiet there, we all can heave a sigh of relief. The state government mechanism acted only after the crisis and it is completely unfair. The Kerala government should have ensured the safety of Malayali nurses when the crisis first raised its ugly head in Iraq”, said Abdul Khader MLA.
He added that a law should be made by the state government to ensure the safety of women nurses from Kerala who opt for overseas jobs.
“Last month around 500 nurses had flown to Libya. As they had gone there through private agencies by paying ` 3-4 lakh there will not be a mechanism to trace them. Five nurses from Kerala had recently gone to Senegal. We were told that they will be given guns once they land in Senegal to ensure their safety. By implementing the Balaraman Committee recommendations, which ensures a decent pay scale for nurses, we can easily accommodate many of the nurses back home. There are about 10,000 vacancies for nurses in government hospitals in Kerala. By ensuring a decent pay package for these posts, we can at least ensure the safety of our female nurses”, said Jasmin Shah, state president, United Nurses Association.