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The Norwegian Nurses Organization (NNO) has for several decades supported African nurses in developing a professional nursing service with better working conditions and salaries.

A recent newspaper article in South Africa (Cape Times 18.03.2016) describes how nurses are being abused and threatened. This has led to demonstrations as the nurses take to the streets with their complaints and demands. The march was supported by the South African nurses’ organization DENOSA. Among grievances mentioned are:

  • Patients attacking nurses
  • Several nurses and doctors have been shot
  • Lack of medicines and supplies lead to diminished services
  • Too few nurses on duty
  • Lengthy patient queues


South African nurses march for a safer working environment and improved working conditions.

NNO has supported African nurses’ organizations with professional and organizational development:

  • Zambia (10+ years), Malawi (10+ years), Uganda (5+ years), Rwanda (3 years).

NNO has also supported activities to improve the nursing profession and their working conditions:

  • 3 year project against workplace violence (Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Zanzibar)
  • 5 year support to a regional network of national nurses organizations in South-Eastern Africa (14 SADC countries)
  • 4 year project for mother/child health and against FGM in Mogadishu, Somali
  • Several years of collaboration with the South African nurses organization DENOSA

NNO’s development work continues. It is a pleasure to announce that NORAD has approved a new three-year framework agreement with NNO, despite stiff competition among Norwegian NGO’s for funding. NORAD has also reduced the number of NGO’s that it supports by a third.

South African nurses take to the streets in protest.

NNO’s development strategy has for many years been participatory and process-oriented. The end goal has always been professionally strong, bold and sustainable sister organizations. Close and regular contact with our partners, building of trust and mutual respect, South-North contact, mentoring, counseling, cooperation, common goals and aspirations are all part of this process. Positive results from this strategy have led to NORAD continuing to appreciate NNO as a valued development partner.

African nurses have a multitude of challenges. Nation-building is still in its early stages.  Strong national nurses’ organizations can be a voice in civil society. They can monitor health care service delivery and lobby politicians to improve on the quality of care being delivered. As examples of NNO’s achievements with our partners in the South we can mention:

  • In Zambia the nurses’ organization – since NNO collaboration began in 2002 – has become a trusted and respected partner in the national health care sector. The nurses’ organization is sustainable. They have successfully negotiated salary hikes and improved working conditions for their members. They have also successfully lobbied government for a dramatic increase in the number of nursing students being trained annually.
  • In Malawi the nurses’ organization has – since NNO collaboration began in 2006 – grown from «next-to-nothing» to one of the largest health care organizations in the country. They have become a strong voice in civil society when health care services fail. They have also lobbied government for upgrading of nurse technicians.
  • In Uganda the nurses’ organization has – since collaboration with NNO began in 2010 – developed a national organization representing thousands of nurses. It has been recognized by government as the legitimate representative for the nurses and midwives of Uganda. It is continually lobbying government to improve a run-down health care system.
  • In Rwanda the nurses’ organization has – since NNO collaboration began in 2012 – newly been recognized as a combined professional association and trade union. Negations are commenced on a Collective Bargaining Agreement. The nurses’ organization has been approved as a Continuing Professional Development Institute for annual recertification of its members.

These are some results NNO can point to – achieved in close collaboration with our partners in Africa. The work continues. NNO thanks NORAD for its continued support.

Text and pictures: Michael Paul Vitols


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