Botswana Medical Insurance
Long regarded as a role model for post-colonial development in sub-Saharan Africa following independence from Britain in 1966, Botswana’s economic growth and national health system experienced a severe negative shock with the growing AIDS epidemic in the 1990s. But thanks to aggressive government intervention and the provision of free anti-HIV/AIDS drugs to citizens, the rate of growth of the disease has declined and Botswana, with a population of less than two million, now ranks among the fastest growing economies in the world. The Republic of Botswana, as it is officially known, now enjoys GDP growth of about 9 percent annually, with diamonds, beef and tourism making up a significant portion of the economy of this Kalahari desert nation, now considered a “middle-income” country with GDP per capita of USD14,400 in 2010.
The country “Bo” of the “Tswana” tribe is rich and diverse in culture, with numerous minority tribes, including the famous Khoisan Bushman of the Kalahari Desert, whose language made up of a series of clicking sounds has inspired generations of linguists and anthropologists as well as the popular 1980 comedy film The Gods Must Be Crazy (which actually starred a Namibian actor). Of more recent vintage, the Scottish writer Alexander McCall Smith’s Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series has brought renewed interest to the country, particularly from mystery buffs. Of more serious historical interest are the 20,000 year old cave paintings in the Kalahari desert.
The country faces its share of environmental and demographic problems, with increasing desertification and drought risk threatening the environment. Raising livestock is a key component of Botswana’s economy, however increasingly intensive breeding has led to the more rapid degradation of grassland and ranges, with concomitant environmental issues, including reduced fresh- and groundwater supplies. Programmes to reintroduce sturdy indigenous plants have begun to ameliorate these issues. While recent HIV/AIDS related deaths have negatively effected population growth, migration from neighbouring countries with unstable regimes, such as Zimbabwe, are currently threatening to strain resources. The current Botswanan fertility rate of 2.5 children per woman is above what is needed to maintain population stability.
Despite its impressive economic growth, health issues remain Botswana’s top domestic concern, with life expectancy at birth a very low 57 years for males and 58 for females. As in the rest of the region, the effects of the AIDS epidemic have been quite serious, with recent estimates calculating that one in four adult Batswana has HIV, the second highest rate in the world. Free anti-retroviral drugs and a programme to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child have proven effective in recent years. Overall, government spending on health care is about USD635 per captia, representing about 7.2 percent of GDP. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been involved with restructuring Botswana’s Ministry of Health, offering both technical expertise and financial assistance in order to efficiently combat the unique health care challenges of this sparsely populated country.
While HIV/AIDS captures most of the headlines, as an emerging market country, Botswana faces increased risk from many of the so-called “diseases of affluence” such as cancer, diabetes and heart problems which are usually correlated with a modern western diet and more sedentary lifestyle. On the other hand, perhaps due to income inequality, it also suffers from diseases associated with poverty and its climate such as tuberculosis, dengue and malaria.
Vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) before travel to Botswana include an update of routine immunizations such as measles, mumps & rubella (MMR), diptheria, pertussis, tetanus (DPT) and poliovirus (polio, once thought eliminated, unfortunately returned to the region in 2006) vaccines. In addition, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid and Rabies shots should be taken approximately 4 to 6 weeks before departure. Certain parts of Botswana are high malarial risk areas; prevention should include long trousers and sleeves, bed nets and antimalarial medication to be discussed with your physician. Note that Choloroqine is an ineffective antimalarial medication in Botswana and should not be taken. Certain other antimalarial drugs have side effects which should be discussed in detail with your physician. Halofantrene is regarded as an extremely powerful antimalarial with serious side effects and should only be used in an emergency if there are no other alternatives. The CDC recommends purchasing antimalarial drugs before travelling to Botswana to ensure safety and quality.
Several diseases associated with insect bites, included those from the tsetse fly, are very common in rural southern Africa, caution is suggested. Wearing long-sleeved clothing and using insect repellent with DEET is recommended. Furthermore, there are several freshwater-borne contaminants, so it is strongly suggested that swimming be limited to pools treated with chlorine. Also, rabies is prevalent in the bat population, so visits to caves should be avoided or entered with extreme caution. Food and water - based diseases are the most common for travelers. Be sure to drink bottled water, wash hands often with soap or hand sanitizer, and avoid eating raw foods.
Government spending makes up approximately 80 - 90 percent of total health expenditure according to the WTO, and the country’s health care spending per capita is in line with those of other emerging market countries. But, as mentioned above, the country’s low population density makes delivery of health care difficult, particularly in rural areas. The WTO also cites high attrition levels among health care workers, likely due to the unique and difficult challenges presented by the high rates of HIV/AIDS in the local populace. Urgent care needs may be met in Gaborone, or more likely, neighbouring Johannesburg, South Africa and may require airlift service. As such expatriates visiting Botswana are advised to purchase a comprehensive international health insurance policy with an emergency evacuation benefit.
Pacific Prime can assist you with any international, travel, or health insurance needs if you decide to travel to Botswana. Our professional team of advisers can suggest a customised range of options at no cost to you, your family and / or your travel group. Policies include a complete range of medical care, including dental, maternity, specialist consultation, transportation / airlift services, inpatient, and more. Contact your local Pacific Prime adviser for further Botswana Health Insurance details.