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Healthcare for Expats in Angola

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Angola’s healthcare system, despite improvements and lavish investments, is still very far from standards of top-tier countries. Its main problems are staff shortage, weak infrastructure and limitedness of the medical services offered. So foreigners who seek employment in Angola shouldn’t rely on local medicine but rather protect themselves independently using medical insurances that cover as many cases as possible (including the emergency evacuation). Despite the most healthcare services of acceptable quality are concentrated in the capital Luanda, even there you can have hard times looking for a concrete specialist. Foreigners who need to undergo complicated procedures usually pursue treatment in South Africa and even Namibia that offer a wider assortment of sophisticated medical services.

Realizing its healthcare issues, Angola doesn’t grant work visas to foreigners who haven’t undergone a full examination by their home doctors and whose certificate contains records about diseases and infections. In terms of moving to Angola, your health is your full responsibility. Everybody knows their health insecurities, and can assess their capability to cope with them without reliable and professional medical help in a strange country. Consider it before applying for a work visa.

Pre-relocation Vaccination

Before packing your suitcases, check your vaccination card with your doctor: whether your immunisation needs any updates. A vaccination against yellow fever is mandatory for moving to Angola; you will have to provide the certificate. This requirement refers to all travellers to the country, even tourists arriving on brief visas. It is crucial to make the yellow fever vaccination at least 2 months before departure to Angola in order to give the organism a possibility to develop the immunity to this disease.

If you regularly consume medicines or you think you might need them, don’t forget to take them along but in their original package. If you arrive in Angola for work, you should take your medical records along as well.

National Healthcare in Angola

Despite the president’s promises (during the re-election in 2012) to improve public healthcare, health expenditure per capita in Angola remains very low (267 USD). For comparison: 6,110 USD in Australia and 3,500 USD in the United Kingdom. Despite the high prices for everything in the country, healthcare standards in Angola remain very low in both public and private sectors. Even rich people with a lot of money cannot get premium healthcare services because they simply don’t exist.

The Angolans are expected to live approximately 51 years. Angola has one of the world’s highest maternal and infant mortality rates which witnesses against the local healthcare: in developed countries, giving birth to a child has stopped being a mortal event a long time ago. Maternity in Angola is associated with severe health problems as most mothers don’t have access to qualified medical services and information.

Due to hot and wet climate and poor sanitary measures, the population suffers from malaria, polio, rabies, water-borne and insect-transmitted diseases such as Dengue, leishmaniasis and so on. The health of the Angolans was estimated as one of the world’s worst. Only a small part of the population (principally, living in the capital city) gets the elementary health care. The reasons are in poor infrastructure, lack of medical staff, and weak efforts of the government.

During the long civil war that lasted for almost 3 decades, at least one generation hasn't got any education, and today, Angola cannot fill the positions of highly qualified medical personnel. The country doesn’t have any specialised medical higher educational institution. Within the past years, lots of Cuban physicians were invited to Angola to help improve the quality of medical services.

Although the country’s rate of HIV/AIDS prevalence is among the lowest in Africa (approximately 2.5% of the population), this rate continued to grow since the end of the civil war. This can be explained by opening borders and return of refugees. Malaria is prevalent mostly in the northern part of the country (where the capital is located), and it greatly affects the maternal health causing almost a quarter of all cases of maternal death. In 2008, Angola was chosen among the first countries for receiving aid under Barak Obama’s Malaria Operational Plan. Outrageously low awareness about sexually transmitted diseases and usage of contraceptives among teenagers leads to an extremely high number of adolescent pregnancies and badly impacts the health of children and their young mothers.

Private and Public Healthcare Facilities in Angola

The basic healthcare is guaranteed on paper, but in reality, public facilities hardly can meet even the most primitive needs in healthcare. Foreigners usually don’t consider the public medical sector with its low assortment of services, scarce staff, and poor standards of equipment, infrastructure, and sanitation.

The private sector is more developed. There are a few quite good 24-hour hospitals where you can get help in emergency cases, see a general practitioner or get the doctor in. There are lots of English-speaking doctors (at least on the basic level), and the quality of routine procedures is quite good. However, if you need a surgery or another complicated operation, you will have to come back home or be evacuated to another country (for example, to South Africa that has a developed healthcare industry). Most of the facilities are located in the capital, and only a few of them are outside Luanda.

A simple treatment in Angolan private facilities is very costly, and you need to pay upfront for every service (if you hold any kind of medical insurance, you ask your insurance company for the reimbursement afterwards). For example, if you fall sick with malaria but not seriously, you pay up to 150 USD. If your malaria case is more serious, you will spend up to 300 USD.

We recommend you to ask your Angolan employer about healthcare allowances your contract includes before accepting it. Some big international Angolan companies have founded their own private clinics to treat their employees; others have agreements with already existing clinics. So it’s absolutely okay to ask about your benefits. If there is no such clinic or arrangement, and you have to purchase a comprehensive medical insurance, inquire whether your employer can compensate its cost.

It is of paramount importance to arrange these things before moving to the country because staying and working in Angola without a proper insurance can cost you lots of money, nerves, and health.

Angolan Pharmacies

Pharmacies at private clinics and hospitals (located in Luanda) are usually open 24 hours a day, but other pharmacies outside of hospitals and even outside of Luanda usually have a very poor assortment of medicines. Expats are recommended to take along medicines they usually consume to Angola from their home countries. This isn’t prohibited provided that you carry medicines in their original packing.

Angolan Emergency

We hope you won’t need it, but you need to know the short number for emergencies: call 112 if you need an ambulance. The response can be very slow, and the services are limited to the capital city. If an emergency happens in a rural area, air evacuation is needed. Luckily, in Angola, you can rely on professional rescue teams, for example, Medical Rescue International. Please note their number for emergency cases when the help of paramedics is needed.

Health Tips for Foreigners

  • It is better to have a health insurance in any case (whatever your employer’s healthcare policy is) because the price for medical services in Luanda is very high.
  • If you have respiratory problems, you should ask your doctor for a piece of advice which medicines to take along as Angola’s hot, wet and often dusty air can be a challenge. You shouldn’t also rely on pharmacies located in private clinics because they also can have issues with supplies.
  • Take along your medical records.
  • Receive a full dental treatment in your home country before arriving in Angola. Finding a good dentist is a pure challenge in Angola where there is 1 dentist per 50,000 people. The equipment and technologies are also very outdated.
  • Foreigners arriving in Angola must remember to spray mosquito repellent on skin and clothes to protect themselves from Malaria. They can also consider taking certain drugs for Malaria prophylaxis. Children younger than 5 years old and pregnant women are the most sensitive to Malaria transmitted by mosquitos.
  • You should avoid drinking tap water. Bottled water is safe. Foreigners who forget to wash hands and boil water before consumption risk being infected with water-borne diseases that cause severe diarrhea. The country’s poor regions often have outbreaks of water-borne diseases. One of the world’s highest levels of Diarrheal disease is spotted in Angola.
  • Being pregnant while staying in Angola has lots of risks because of the prevalence of diseases common to tropical climate (schistosomiasis and malaria), tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and measles. Pregnant women should be extremely careful in Angola and take preventive measures against these diseases.

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