If you hadn't been paid in six months, or six years, or sixteen years, would you go on strike? What if your going on strike meant that others would suffer even more than they already do?
Doctors at public hospitals in the Democratic Republic of Congo have gone on strike in the last two weeks. Their demands are fairly simple: they want the months of back pay they're owed by the state, and they want their salaries raised, from $215 a month to $580 a month.
I know doctors in the east who are owed years, not months, of back pay.
One of the things I've learned in my research on the Congo is that social service professionals throughout the country are in an impossible position. Doctors, nurses, and teachers all want to help people, just like their counterparts in the rest of the world. But they have to work in what are often intolerable conditions, with minimal supplies. And they can't support their families on non-existent salaries. The fees they charge patients for services are nowhere near sufficient to cover their staffing costs. And those fees are often prohibitive for most Congolese families.
It costs about 10 cents U.S. for a child to see a doctor in the east.
That's cost prohibitive.
This is a country where people die of malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and dozens of other completely preventable causes.
Because 10 cents is too expensive.
The doctors who don't go on strike tend to be those who get salary "bonuses" from partnerships with international organizations and churches. These groups try to fill the gap between what the state pays (or doesn't pay) and what can be considered a reasonable salary for an educated professional who works long hours. If you'd like to support the work of a hospital that pays its doctors well, and that provides services to those who suffer the most, Heal Africa is a great place to start.