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.

Many diseases that are rarely seen in developed countries – such as cholera, tetanus and even polio – can still lead to deaths in Nigeria, as many healthcare facilities in the country lack resources and facilities.

Private healthcare in Nigeria

Expats should only use private clinics and hospitals in Nigeria, though even these will likely lack the creature comforts present in most Western facilities. Furthermore, as even the doctors and nurses in private institutions may lack specialised knowledge and the diagnostic equipment to pinpoint a complicated medical problem, expats in need of serious treatment should consider travelling to South Africa or Europe. For routine check-ups and minor issues, however, the private clinics in the urban areas of Nigeria are satisfactory.

Health insurance in Nigeria

Expats should note that immediate payment for healthcare is generally expected in cash upfront. It follows that private health insurance is essential, especially if a situation arises where one needs to fund 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 then expats should 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.

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, so appropriate precautions must be taken. Tap water should not be consumed; water-borne diseases spread easily, and diarrhoea is a common ailment amongst expats.

Vaccinations for Nigeria

The following vaccinations are recommended prior to travel to Nigeria:

  • Tetanus

  • Diphtheria

  • Measles

  • Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis B

  • Typhoid

  • Meningitis

  • Rubella

  • Yellow fever

The above list is merely a guide. Expats should ensure that all their routine vaccinations are up to date and should consult with a medical professional prior to departure for further information on vaccinations for Nigeria.

Emergency services in Nigeria

Emergency response times in Nigeria are notoriously slow. A number of private medical emergency services are in operation, although coverage in rural areas may be limited. It’s essential that expats have comprehensive health insurance that covers air evacuation by private means.

Expat Health Insurance


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