Ethiopia Medical Insurance
Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a large landlocked country positioned in the Horn of Africa. Its bordering neighbors include Eritrea to the north, Somalia and Djibouti to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan to the west. Its 1,100,00 sq. km. include a wide range of terrain, spanning from volcanic hot springs to waterfalls, and the highest mountains in Africa to the world’s lowest points below sea level. Ethiopia is a place known for beautiful landscapes and a rich history, having the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. Ethiopia is also one of the oldest known sites of human civilization. Ethiopia has one of the fastest growing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the largest economy in East Africa. Despite these statistics, poverty still remains a rampant problem in Ethiopia and is one of the largest obstacles in the Ethiopian government’s attempts to improve its healthcare sector.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MOH) is responsible for developing the country’s policies, regulations, and programs and working with international organizations in ensuring the success of these programs. One of its current projects is the Health Sector Development Plan (HSDP), which started in 1998. It is currently in its fourth phase, which is set to end in 2015. HSDP IV’s goals are to reduce child and maternal mortality, and reduce the rates of infection for HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases.
Ethiopia suffers from a high rate of infection by from communicable infectious diseases. Most of Ethiopia’s health problems stem from poor sanitation, hygiene, and nutritional deficiencies. In addition, there is a serious shortage of medical personnel. Life expectancy in Ethiopia is only 45 years of age, and only 20 percent of children are vaccinated, causing a high rate of child mortality due to preventable diseases. These statistics are about three times higher in urban areas, which shows the large disparity between healthcare in urban and rural areas. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) affects about 1.4 percent of the population; a statistic, which has decreased dramatically in recent years with the help of foreign cooperation. Despite this success, AIDS is still prevalent amongst poor communities and women because of a lack of education. The Ethiopian government, WHO, and other organizations are currently working together to promote awareness and education in these areas.
Ethiopia heavily depends on foreign donations and organizations to fund and organize its healthcare program. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) has organized the Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP), which is set to be in effect from 2008-2013. This project aims to control communicable and non-communicable diseases, child and maternal mortality rates, promote public health, and provide emergency and health sanitation services. Other organizations that work in Ethiopia include UNICEF, United Nations, and other private charities. Since 1990, the Ethiopian government has allocated much funding to its health sector in order to reform its programs. This resulted in improvements in mortality rates and life expectancies. However, the health sector took another hit, when funding dropped during the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea. In 2001, health expenditure per capita was about $4.50 USD.
The government began a poverty reduction program in 2002, part of which sought to vastly improve education, particularly about health. However, these efforts are still undermined by the fact that most medical staff trained in Ethiopia migrates to other countries in search of a better life. Other health programs organized by the Ethiopian government include a polio vaccination project that successfully vaccinated 14 million children. The government also began its Health Extension Program in 2003, which aimed to provide universal primary healthcare coverage by 2009. The program trained and placed two Health Extension Workers (HEW) in every sub-district, with emphasis placed on preventative care. Unfortunately, this goal still remains to be reached. Although over 30,000 HEWs were trained by 2009, they lacked the facilities to treat and educate their patients. In addition, the selection of HEWs was also problematic as most HEWs lived in urban areas and would thus, not decentralize healthcare as the project has intended to. Many HEWs also stopped providing services, as many of them did not receive their promised salaries from the government.
Ethiopia currently has about 1 doctor per 100,000 people, 119 hospitals, and 412 health facilities. These public centers are usually in urban areas and can only provide basic health services and generally have insufficient medical staff, supplies, and medicine. With a large patient base, waiting times can also be extremely long. Facilities in rural areas are extremely rare. These facilities only provide the most basic health services and almost none have anything beyond basic medical supplies. The only private facilities are ones established by NGOs and other charities. Most of these provide free healthcare or services at a very low rate. However, even these facilities are not well equipped and medical supplies will vary.
The lack of accessibility to healthcare facilities, personnel, and supplies cause the large majority of the population to rely on traditional healers, which often compound problems because many “false healers” end up doing more harm than good for the population. About 90 percent of traditional healers are “false healers” and prey on the populations’ desperate need for treatment. Many traditional healers will take ingredients for their medicine from plants, animals, and rare minerals. Many illnesses and injuries are believed to be caused by problems with spirits or demons. For example, traditional healers believe that touching a stone after a female dog urinates on it causes sexually transmitted infections such as Gonorrhea. Other beliefs include that syphilis can be cured by having more sex partners. These kinds of traditions and practices often cause a greater spread of the infections and diseases.
Furthermore, Ethiopia suffers from a high rate of maternal and infant mortality because of the widely accepted practice of female genital cutting. This practice is believed to deter women against sexual promiscuity. About 4 out of 5 Ethiopian women have experienced some form of female genital cutting. Many of these procedures are performed by traditional healers who do not practice proper sterilization, use of anesthetics, wound dressing, and often lack proper surgical training. Many of these procedures are often even performed with crude instruments such as broken glass. Most of these procedures are performed on small children, who die as a result of infection, shock, or heavy bleeding. Women, who have undergone female genital cutting, are also at high risk when they give birth later in life.
Ethiopia’s healthcare system is inadequate and its country’s health indicators rank as one of the lowest in the world. Visitors and expatriates traveling to Ethiopia are strongly urged to take out an international health insurance policy beforehand. Not only does Ethiopia have insufficient facilities, they also lack equipment, staff, and supplies. In rural areas, it is even harder to find a healthcare center or medical personnel. Travelers who are seriously injured or ill will need to be evacuated to a different country for treatment. These expenses are known to be as much as $100,000 USD; thus, it is imperative to check that your policy covers evacuation transportation costs.
Recommended vaccinations include yellow fever, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus-diptheria, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. Although a yellow fever vaccination certificate is no longer necessary to enter Ethiopia, if you have recently traveled to a country where yellow fever is endemic, you will need to present a proof of immunization. Ethiopia is a yellow fever zone, so travelers are strongly recommended to get a vaccination before entering the country.
A measles outbreak was recorded in Ethiopia in October 2010. Although this is now under control, outbreaks do occur regularly. All travelers born after 1956 should make sure that they have had their measles immunizations.
Malaria has also been reported in Ethiopia. Travelers should bring adequate supplies of anti-malarial medicine. In addition, try to sleep in a bed net whenever possible and always use insect repellant. If you suspect that you may have malaria, call the CDC malaria hotline at 770-488-7788 (M-F, 9am – 5pm, Eastern time). For emergencies, call 770-488-7100 to speak with a clinician right away.
Other health risks include altitude sickness, which can occur at Addis Ababa, which is at an altitude of greater than 2500 meters. Travelers should be aware of not engaging in rigorous activities or alcohol consumption for 24 hours after their ascent. If you suffer from heart problems or high blood pressure, consult your doctor before traveling.
Always carry sufficient supplies of your prescription medicine, as medical supplies are limited in the region. Also carry diarrhea medicine, as that is the number one ailment of travelers in this region. Always make sure that your drinking water has been purified or is bottled. Avoid unpasteurized milk and dairy products that have not been made from boiled milk.
We offer professional advice at no cost to you. No matter what your budget is or what your requirements are, our professional consultants can help find a policy that fits you or your group. Our policies can cover a wide range of services including dental, maternity, specialist consultation, transportation, inpatient services, and many more. Please contact us today for a free consultation.