Harare, Zimbabwe – In December 2021, Setfree Mafukidze, his wife and four children moved to Somerset in the United Kingdom, joining a long list of health workers who have fled Zimbabwe to escape economic and political turmoil.
For four years, he had worked as the head nurse at the only clinic in Chivu, a town about 140km (90 miles) south of Harare.
By his estimate, he cared for more than 10,000 people there. Despite earning only about $150 a month, he would often dip into his own pockets to pay his patients’ bills.
Once, a patient with meningitis needed $200 to buy lifesaving medication, a huge sum in a country where a third of the population live on no more than $1 a day.
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Neither the patient nor his mother had the funds, so Mafukidze appealed to well-to-do Zimbabweans in the diaspora to help. After they did, he drove back and forth to the capital, Harare, to get the drugs.
For Zimbabweans who saw people like Mafukidze as heroes, their departures are seen as a great loss.
“He would attend to people at any given time during emergencies and could make follow-ups at our homes,” said Tawanda Mabuwu, a Chivhu resident. “When my sister who was his patient died after he departed for the UK, he sent his wife with clothes for Christmas for the two orphans my sister left. He was just good, and we keep on losing our best.”
After Brexit in 2016 and COVID-19 four years later led to a shortage of skilled professionals in the UK, the country eased entry rules, leading to an increase in work visas issued to foreign health and social care workers.