The quality and availability of healthcare in Kenya vary tremendously, depending on your location, the hospital and the treatment required. Generally, you may find healthcare throughout Kenya below European standards. You should look at private healthcare options and investigate each hospital's speciality areas, as these are usually better than public facilities.

As is the case elsewhere in the world, private healthcare in Kenya is considerably more expensive than the country's public healthcare. Most people are willing to pay a higher price in exchange for better quality healthcare with shorter waiting times.

Public healthcare in Kenya

medical professionals standing in a hospital setting

There are several different types and levels of public medical facilities in Kenya, all of which work on a system of escalating referrals, depending on the problem.

If you are not on private healthcare, government-run dispensaries are your first port of call. KEMSA (Kenya Medical Supplies Authority) is the state-run organisation that supplies these dispensaries with most of their medical equipment and medication. These facilities are run and managed by nurses and provide the most basic outpatient services for simple illnesses such as colds and flu, skin conditions and the initial treatment of malaria.

If the nurses at the dispensary cannot deal with a problem, you will be referred to a health centre. Government-run health centres are run and managed by a clinical officer. Health centres in Nairobi provide primary care and focus mainly on preventative care, such as vaccinations. They tend to fall short when it comes to curative treatment, though.

Complicated cases may be referred upwards to a government district or provincial hospital.

Private healthcare in Kenya

Most people prefer to use private healthcare facilities in Kenya. Though the cost is much higher than treatment at public facilities, the quality of service is better, and doctors are often more experienced. Hygiene levels and the quality of equipment have also improved significantly.

Kenya has an extensive network of private healthcare facilities, from small local clinics to large hospitals. There are several private hospitals and medical clinics in Nairobi and Mombasa.

Day-to-day treatment can be surprisingly affordable, but a hefty deposit is required for patients without insurance. We highly recommend that you invest in private health insurance to cover more complex procedures and expensive evacuations.

For serious operations, some people look outside the country for help. South Africa is widely considered to have the best medical facilities on the continent and is the usual destination for emergency medical evacuation.

Health insurance in Kenya

medical professional using a laptop next to papers and a stethoscope

Kenya's public healthcare system operates with contributions from two types of social security services: the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the National Social Security Scheme (NSSF). The NHIF is largely targeted at Kenyan citizens over 18, although all citizens and expats working in Kenya must make monthly contributions to this, deducted from their salary.

As a resident, you are eligible to take advantage of the NHIF, but most people opt for private healthcare, which requires a greater and more comprehensive insurance policy.

Although not compulsory by law, private health insurance is strongly recommended. Without it, healthcare costs are just as expensive as in Western countries, and covering the costs for emergency care, especially medical evacuation, can be impossible out of pocket.

Often, employers relocating people to Kenya will provide insurance. If your employer does not, you should arrange suitable coverage before arriving. When taking out health insurance in Kenya, be aware of the terms of your coverage. A comprehensive policy is best.

Useful links

Pharmacies and medicine in Kenya

Pharmacies in Kenya, often called chemists, are easily found in major towns and cities. The best pharmacies are typically attached to hospitals. Several trustworthy pharmacy chains, such as Crown Paints Pharmacy, Avenue Pharmacy and Medplus Pharmacy, are prominent in town centres and shopping malls across Kenya. Some pharmacies in large cities operate 24 hours a day, but it's best to check opening hours.

Most generic medicines are easy to find at Kenyan pharmacies. Even though many medications are imported to Kenya, they are generally cheaper than in many other expat destinations. Still, having an insurance policy covering all medication expenses is best. If you suffer from chronic illnesses or need prescription medication, you should bring a supply with you, as well as copies of the prescription and generic names of the drugs.

In rural areas, pharmacies can be less accessible. Limited availability, stock shortages and transport barriers make it harder for residents to access essential medications.

Health hazards and vaccinations in Kenya

Before moving to Kenya, you should visit a healthcare practitioner for information on which vaccinations are needed. Immunisation against yellow fever, polio, rabies, hepatitis A, and typhoid is often recommended, along with the upkeep of standard vaccinations such as measles, mumps and rubella, and COVID-19.

Malaria, cholera and dengue fever are health risks in Kenya. Preventing bites from disease-bearing insects is the best protection against many dangerous illnesses, including malaria and dengue fever. Sleep under mosquito nets and use insect repellent. Consider taking a course of anti-malarial tablets.

In addition to general safety concerns, water quality in Kenya is variable. Don't drink water directly from the tap unless you have a pathogen- and bacteria-killing water filter. It's also best to be cautious of food prepared by unlicensed roadside vendors.

Kenya has been investing in better water treatment facilities and enforcing stricter regulations on food safety to improve water quality and food safety.

Useful links

Emergency medical services in Kenya

The standard of emergency medical services in Kenya varies. In cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa, the level of emergency medical services is not excellent but is passable, with Kenya Red Cross and St John Ambulance Kenya providing emergency medical care to those in need. In rural areas, emergency health services are poor to non-existent.

Private hospitals in Kenyan cities often have a small fleet of ambulances that are sent out to assist patients.

In many cases, getting a patient to the nearest hospital in a private vehicle is faster, as waiting times for ambulances in Kenya can be long. Nairobi's largest Accident and Emergency departments are Nairobi Hospital and the Aga Khan University Hospital.

In an emergency in Kenya, call 999 for fire and ambulance services and 999, 112 or 911 for police.

Expat Health Insurance

Cigna Health Insurance

Cigna Global Health Insurance.

Moving your family abroad can be intimidating, but learning about medical options such as family health insurance early on can help you settle successfully.

  • Comprehensive Family coverage, wherever you go
  • Paediatric coverage for well-child visits & immunizations
  • Access to dental and orthodontic care
  • 24/7 multilingual Customer Service

Get a quote from Cigna Global

Moving Internationally?

Sirelo logo

International Movers. Get Quotes. Compare Prices.

Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.

Get your free no-obligation quotes from select removal companies now!