Healthcare in Nigeria
The lack of quality healthcare in Nigeria is one serious drawback that expats and assignees have to begrudgingly accept. Though state-run hospitals, general hospitals, local dispensaries and private and non-governmental clinics exist, very few of them would qualify as offering anything other than poor to fair facilities, professionals and equipment.
Nigeria only allocates around six percent of its budget to redressing healthcare concerns, well below the United Nations' recommended 15 percent and, as a result, the public healthcare system is still well below the standard that expats may be accustomed to. Furthermore, many diseases that are rarely seen in developed countries – such as cholera, tetanus and even polio – can still lead to deaths in Nigeria.
What's more, Nigeria no longer invests in specialised training for its doctors - causing many to leave the country in search of better job opportunities and further education, which has created a glaring absence of adequate personnel.
Private healthcare and health insurance in Nigeria
It is highly recommended expats use only private clinics and hospitals in Nigeria, though even these will likely lack the creature comforts and the innovation present in Western facilities. Furthermore, as even the doctors and nurses in private institutions may not have knowledge to conduct specialised procedures, nor the diagnostic equipment to pinpoint a complicated medical problem, expats in need of serious treatment should plan on evacuation to South Africa or Europe. For routine check-ups and minor issues, however, the private clinics in the urban areas of Nigeria will be satisfactory.
Expats should note that immediate payment for healthcare is generally expected in cash up front. It follows that private health insurance is essential, especially if a situation arises where one needs to foot the bill for an emergency evacuation abroad (expats should ensure this is part of their policy). In most cases, this is a stipulation included in negotiated contracts, and if it isn’t, expats should be sure to broach the subject with their employer.
The cost associated with private treatment can quickly escalate, even if a large-scale medical evacuation is not needed, so it’s best to ensure adequate coverage for any eventuality.
Medicines and pharmacies in Nigeria
Pharmacies are available across most Nigerian cities, although these may not stock many of the usual drugs that expats may be used to having access to at home. It’s recommended that expats bring a sizeable supply of any required prescription medication with them to Nigeria. Certain pharmaceuticals may not be available in the country, and the generic may not necessarily be trustworthy. The same goes for preferred, name brand over-the-counter medication.
Health risks in Nigeria
Malaria is a concern throughout Nigeria. Expats are divided over whether or not to take malaria prophylaxes. These drugs do have some serious side effects, and long-term use is not recommended. Additionally, they mask the symptoms of malaria which may impede rapid treatment. The best approach is to be proactive with prevention: use a mosquito net, cover arms and legs, fumigate the house twice a year and visit the doctor immediately if experiencing any flu-like symptoms. Malaria is easy to treat, as long as it’s caught early.
HIV and tuberculosis are also rife in Nigeria and so appropriate precautions must be taken. Though, the latter mainly affects those with suppressed immune systems.
Tap water should not be consumed; water-borne diseases spread easily, and diarrhoea is a common ailment amongst expats. It’s best to only consume bottled water.
Vaccinations for Nigeria
Expats should get inoculation shots for tetanus, diphtheria, measles, hepatitis A and B, and possibly typhoid, meningitis and rubella. A yellow fever vaccination is no longer required.
Emergency services in Nigeria
Emergency response times in Nigeria are notoriously slow. A number of private medical emergency services are operational in Nigeria, although coverage in rural areas may be limited. It’s essential that expats have comprehensive health insurance that covers air evacuation by private means.