The general state of healthcare in Zambia is poor. Although there are adequate private health facilities in Lusaka, the public health system remains heavily underfunded, and many expats requiring serious medical attention will find themselves evacuated to another country, such as South Africa, where there are better medical facilities. It’s therefore essential that expats have a comprehensive health insurance policy before moving to Zambia.
Public healthcare in Zambia
Zambia offers universal healthcare to all its citizens. By Western standards, this healthcare is very basic and Zambia’s public healthcare system is chronically underfunded. Many Zambian doctors leave the country or work only for the private health system, meaning that public health is subject to a skills drain.
Private healthcare in Zambia
There are good private hospitals in Zambia’s larger cities, particularly Lusaka. These cater not only to foreigners, but also to affluent Zambians. Expats living in mining communities and compounds owned by their organisation are likely to find company-sponsored clinics on site that are able to cater for their basic medical needs. Be that as it may, most expats are evacuated to South Africa or elsewhere in the case that long-term serious medical care is required.
Pharmacies in Zambia
Although pharmacies are available in major towns and cities, they are not always well stocked and may not carry many of the usual drugs that expats may need. Pharmacies may be closed after hours or on Sundays. In the case of an emergency, expats should try pharmacies attached to hospitals or clinics.
Health insurance in Zambia
It's essential that expats either ensure that any medical insurance cover from outside Zambia covers them in the country, or that medical insurance is taken out immediately upon arrival. It is important that this medical plan is comprehensive, and includes cover for medical evacuations. This should be an essential part of contract negotiations when moving to Zambia.
Health hazards in Zambia
Malaria is a major health concern in Zambia, and expats should consult a doctor for the latest travel advice prior to leaving for Zambia. A mosquito net is therefore an important purchase. These nets cover the bed at night and have a significant effect in reducing mosquito bites. Cholera and dysentery are also common, particularly during the rainy season. Zambia also has a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
The water in Zambian cities is drinkable, but it is best to avoid it. Bottled water is widely available and is generally the best option for new arrivals.
Emergency services in Zambia
Emergency services are inadequate, especially outside of Lusaka. In the case of an emergency, expats can dial 991. For serious emergencies, airlifting to a nearby country with better facilities might be the best course of action. Expats should therefore choose an insurance policy that includes this service.
►For information about finding a home in this Southern African country, see Accommodation in Zambia
"There are some new clinics that have opened in the last couple of years. I’ve had a horrid experience at one clinic and was taken care of very well at another. Definitely ask others about their experiences and check a place out before you get sick and are in need of care."
Learn more about healthcare and living in Zambia in our interview with Canadian expat Tima.
Are you an expat living in Zambia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Zambia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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