The lack of high-standard 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 a mere 5 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 – like cholera, tetanus and even polio Ė can still cause death 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
For these reasons, itís 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. For routine check-ups and minor issues, however, the private clinics in the urban areas of Nigeria will be satisfactory.
Expats should note that in Nigeria healthcare is paid for in cash, immediately, for the most part.
It follows that private health insurance is essential, especially as financial support in the situation you need to foot the bill for an emergency evacuation abroad (make sure this is part of your policy). In most cases, this is a stipulation included in negotiated contracts, and if it isnít, be sure to broach the subject with your employer.
The cost associated with private treatment can quickly escalate, even if a large-scale medical evacuation isnít needed.
Lastly, itís recommended that expats bring a sizeable supply of any required prescription medication in their luggage. Certain pharmaceuticals may not be available in Nigeria, and the generic may not necessarily be trustworthy. The same goes for preferred, name brand over-the-counter medication, like Tylenol.
Health risks in Nigeria
Malaria is a concern in Nigeria. Expats are divided over whether or not to take malaria prophylaxes such as Larium or Malaron Ė the two most popular drugs. 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: buy an impregnated mosquito net, fumigate your house twice a year and visit the doctor immediately if feeling the least bit flu-ish. Malaria is easy to treat, as long as itís spotted appropriately.
HIV and tuberculosis is rife in Nigeria, unfortunately, and so appropriate precautions must be taken. Though, the latter mainly affects those with suppressed immune systems.
You are advised to 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.