Ghana at a Glance
Health Issues and Healthcare in Ghana
Ghana’s problems related to healthcare and health infrastructure in general are both numerous and serious. The nation agreed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) derived from the 2000 UN Millennium Declaration and has, in fact, made giant steps towards achieving a number of them. Most notable are probably the achievements made for Goals One and Two, which address extreme poverty and hunger, as well as education, respectively. However, Ghana has fallen short on reaching several other goals connected to health. Infant and child mortality, one of the issues addressed in the MDG, remains high, as does maternal mortality – in fact, circumstances for expecting mothers have been worsening towards the end of the past decade.
Other severe problems not addressed in the MDG pose even more serious risks for the health of the Ghanaian populace. Malaria, transferred by the Anopheles mosquito, is one of the most severe illnesses in the country, both by infection and mortality rate. HIV and AIDS are just as dangerous and, unfortunately, very widespread: Ghana is among the countries with the highest rate of people living with HIV/AIDS and deaths caused by the disease. When preparing for your expat assignment to Ghana, please prepare yourself thoroughly for the infectious diseases and other health issues that might await you. You can find a section devoted to the topic below.
While Ghana’s government has increased its expenditure for healthcare more than threefold within the past 10 years, healthcare infrastructure is still patchy and inadequate, especially outside of the large conurbations such as Accra. Within cities, hospitals and emergency services are available, but not quite up to Western standards. The availability of healthcare institutions and even doctors is very limited in the countryside, and traditional African medicine is the go-to option for large portions of the rural population that cannot afford travelling long distances for healthcare.
Prior to 2003, the healthcare coverage of Ghana’s residents was oftentimes insufficient, to say the least. The “cash and carry” scheme required the sick to pay for their treatment up front – impossible for large parts of the population. In an effort to combat this situation, the Ghanaian government has set up the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Results were almost immediate, with the country seeing a plunge in deaths and a rise in patient numbers. The services of the NHIS are tailored towards the needs of Ghanaians: treatments for malaria, diarrhea, respiratory diseases, diabetes, hypertension and other widespread ailments are covered. Premiums are set at flexible rates ranging from GH¢ 7.2 to GH¢ 48.00 so as to make the scheme available even to low-income employees in the informal or self-employed sector. However, there is a waiting period of six months after application for the scheme for people working in aforementioned sectors.
Apart from government-funded hospitals, clinics and healthcare centers set up by religious groups play an important role in providing the population with much-needed medical assistance.
Expats in Ghana should definitely either buy an international health insurance form a provider specializing in such services, or discuss comprehensive health coverage with their prospective Ghanaian employer. If you have any chronic ailments or depend on prescription medication, do not forget to bring a supply of your medication as well as copies of the prescription and the generic names of the drugs when first going to Ghana.
Antimalarial medicine is available throughout the country. However, to ensure effectiveness and to reduce the risk of infection at arrival – malaria is a threat in all corners of the country – you should already buy medication in your home country. In Ghana, the antimalarial drugs Atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline, and mefloquine should be among your top choices. Try to stick to these, as some others may either not be effective or, even worse, come with very undesirable side effects. Other means of malaria prophylaxis include wearing long, bright garments, using insect repellent, and sleeping in air-conditioned and screened bedrooms.
Before departing to Ghana, make sure to get your immunizations renewed. Apart from the obligatory yellow fever vaccination you need proof of when applying for your visa, these immunizations are highly recommended:
- Hepatitis A and B