Benin Medical Insurance
Benin, or The Republic of Benin, is located on the Western part of the African continent. It is bordered by Burkina Faso and Niger on the North, Togo to the West and Nigeria to the East. Benin is a sub-Saharan country, possessing a tropical climate, and has an estimated population of approximately 9 million people. French is the official spoken language of Benin with indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba spoken in areas throughout the country. The mainstay of Benin’s economy is agriculture; cotton production accounts for some 40 percent of GDP, and 80 percent of exports. As of 1991, Benin is a presidential representative democratic republic.
Benin is a poor country with a third of the population living below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. Total expenditure on health care services by the government is estimated at 3.3 percent of GDP. In 2005 the infant mortality rate was 81 deaths per 1,000 live births, with the maternal mortality rate at 500 deaths per 100,000 live births. Female genital mutilation is performed on approximately half the female population in Benin. The average life expectancy in the country is 53 years from birth, with an estimated 25 percent of children under the age of five suffering from malnutrition.
The Joint United Nations Program for HIV/AIDS estimated in 2003 that between 38,000 and 120,000 Benin nationals are infected with HIV/AIDS virus. These figures are relatively low in comparison with other African countries, but the virus is spreading among young adults. Transmission predominantly occurs by means of unprotected heterosexual intercourse, or mother-to-child transmission (MTCT).
While Benin is a relatively large country, covering a total land area of 110,000 square kilometres, there are only four hospitals within the national borders. According to a 1999 Benin health care survey, there were only 0.1 doctors for every 1000 people and the availability of beds was 0.2 per 1000 people. The use of mobile treatment units and other facilities has curbed the outbreak of serious epidemics in Benin. Worldwide medical insurance is strongly recommended as doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for service administered.
The risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis, meningitis and malaria is high. While efforts are being made to improve the quality of drinking water travellers are advised to use only boiled or bottled water. Typhoid fever caused by bacterium Salmonella enterica is an acute, life-threatening febrile illness with humans being the predominant recipients of infection. Infection occurs from contact with human faeces by means of contaminated water or food; consequently this disease poses a serious risk in Benin as only 23 percent of the population has adequate sanitation.
The parasitic disease African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, is spread by the Tsetse fly which affects both humans and animals alike. Preventive measures aimed at eradicating the Tsetse fly are in operation; however travellers are advised to be aware of the large, brown, biting fly, and take appropriate precautions. Yaws, a bacterial infection that affects the skin, bones and joints has almost been eradicated in the Northern areas of Benin, however the disease still presents a significant risk. Yaws is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with an infected lesion; as such, direct contact with infected individuals should be avoided.
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, both viral infections, are serious illnesses which cause inflammation of the liver. Hep A is contracted from contaminated food and water while Hep B is contracted by exposure to infected bodily fluids or blood. Over 8 percent of the Benin population are carriers of Hepatitis B. The risk of exposure while receiving medical or dental treatment is high. Travellers are strongly urged to avail of vaccinations before arrival.
Polio has been reported in the country since 2007. This is contracted from contaminated food or water. While most western countries administer routine polio vaccination to children a booster shot is recommended for those who have not received a vaccine in the last ten years.
Wild or domestic animals should be avoided while in Benin as the likelihood of being infected with rabies from a bite is high. Rabies is a viral disease which causes inflammation of the brain and is fatal unless post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment is sought within ten days of the infection. Treatment may not be available in certain areas of Benin therefore repatriation of the victim is critical. For those planning on spending time in rural area, expatriates or long term travellers’, vaccinations should be considered, as well as a comprehensive Benin medical insurance policy.
Yellow fever vaccination is a requirement for entry to Benin. There has been a reduction in the reported cases of yellow fever, but it still remains a threat in certain areas. The vaccine is to be administrated ten days before arrival, and should be retaken at ten year intervals.
Malaria is present in all areas of Benin. Before you travel consult your doctor on the various anti-malarial drugs available. Malaria is contracted from the bite of the mosquito therefore one should takes preventative measure by wearing insect repellent, long pants and sleeves, sleeping in air-conditioned rooms and using bed-nets. Some anti-malaria drugs that are available in your country may not be available in Benin; it is recommended that you bring them with you.
2010 saw the worst flooding in decades which affected an estimated 800,000 people. Villages were swiped away and 800 new cases of cholera were reported due to contamination of drinking water by the overflowing of latrines. This prompted the UN refugee agency to activate an emergency plan to help those displaced by the floods. Travellers to Benin are advised to monitor weather conditions and exercise caution in affected areas.
There have been reports of car jacking, mugging, personal assault and highway bandits operating in all areas of the country. Armed robberies are prevalent on the border with Nigeria. Public transportation is often overcrowded and dangerous, with highly questionable quality of vehicles, they generally should be avoided; if you plan to make a road trip while in Benin ensure you have quality transport. A copy of your passport should be kept separate for your original to ensure a speedy renewal if stolen.
Before travelling to Benin you should consult with your health care provider on the various vaccinations, medications and precautionary information advised for the country. Ideally you should seek advice six weeks before your departure date in order for vaccinations to take effect.
A visa is required for entry into Benin if you hold a passport from the United States, UK, Europe, Australia or Canada along with a valid yellow fever certificate, malaria protection and typhoid vaccination information.
Pacific Prime can assist you further by providing free professional advice on health care services available to you for the duration of your stay in Benin. Our wide range of international health insurance polices can be tailored to suit all budgets and cover a variety of activities. To hear more about our current offers call today.