Addressing the Healthcare challenges for expats living in Africa: Steps they can take themselves

Africa is one of the top expat destinations in the world. In 2017, the Expat Insider survey revealed several African countries such as Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa ranking.

One common thing was noted to be of concern to those living and working in these locations: they worried about their personal safety and quality of life, including health.

While these locations are favoured by expats for their financial rewards and work-life balance, there is a lot of concern over staying healthy while travelling and working in Africa, since parts of the continent struggle with the quality of healthcare provided.

Therefore, it is all the more important that expats take ownership of their health. While progress continues and drive forward, there are some measures expats can implement to ensure they thrive during their time there.

Water Quality Remains A Concern

Recent news reports and studies by nonprofit organizations will confirm that there continues to be poor access and poor quality of water across a significant portion of Africa today. In 2006, the World Health Organization estimated that had access to adequate sanitation systems.

Fast forward to 2018 and approximately 1 billion people across Africa do not have access to clean safe water, according to the Water Project. The lack of facilities providing drinkable water free from bacteria and germs continues to be a magnanimous problem plaguing the continent and for expats living here, chances are more than likely that they will encounter it at some point thanks to the large scale of the issue.

Taking steps at home such as the use of water filtration systems or simply boiling water before use can dramatically reduce any bacteria or viruses contained in the water. The use of water also affects the foods eaten since most fruits, vegetables, and fresh produce are washed and prepared using the same water.

Therefore, when addressing your diet and doing your grocery shopping, opt for local markets or established food stores instead of street stalls. In addition, be sure to clean your fresh produce once at home before consuming or cooking with it. Some of the most commonly reported conditions caused by contaminated water include typhoid and diarrhoea.

In fact, the Sub- Sahara African region is where Finally, be sure to keep yourself and your family hydrated especially since Africa can be a humid climate. Humid, warm climates are known for accelerating dehydration and even home conditions including the growth of mould and other, particularly allergic reactions in children.

Secure International Health Insurance Before Traveling

Newcomers to African countries such as Nigeria and Zimbabwe are recommended to secure private health insurance before moving due to the unreliability and intense pressure placed on the healthcare system in these countries.

In Nigeria, there is estimated to be 1 doctor per 2000 inhabitants and while there is a national health scheme service through national insurance, the public infrastructure remains ill-equipped. Securing international health insurance can ensure expats are refunded for out of pocket medical costs should they need to seek private care or head overseas for treatment.

Make Mental Health A Priority: Socialize

The stigma around mental health continues, particularly in Africa. Mental health conditions and maintenance continues to be largely neglected and as an expat, living in an unfamiliar country away from your loved ones and comfort of home can provoke feelings of anxiety, depression or homesickness. Not only is the detection and promotion of mental health low in Africa but so is its treatment.

Between 75 per cent and 90 per cent of patients do not access the treatment they need in countries such as South Africa, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. do not require any equipment and can be done in the comfort of your accommodation at the end or beginning of each day.

In addition, it is important to make the effort to socialize amongst the local climate and create a support network for yourself while living in Africa. Attending local functions or finding ways to overcome local language barriers can help you identify and form lasting friendships and help with any feelings of stress, loneliness or anxiety you may encounter in your stay.

The goal to improve healthcare continues to drive forward but it is not yet complete. As more overseas travellers continue to flock to the continent for leisure and work, addressing the healthcare concerns that come with their visit can significantly improve the experience and quality of life they have living in Africa.

The best way to protect themselves healthwise by employing some effort on their part.

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