Gambia Medical Insurance
The Republic of the Gambia, more commonly known as The Gambia, or Gambia, is located in West Africa. The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa and shares its northern, eastern and southern border with the Republic of Senegal, while the Atlantic Ocean encompasses its western coastline. Its population is estimated at 1.65 million people within an area of almost 10,500 square kilometers. Although large swathes of the country are agriculturally fertile, it is thought that one third of the population lives below the internationally recognized poverty line. Gambians are known for their vibrant culture with music, song and dance playing an important role in everyday life. As a former British colony, the official language is English; however, the larger indigenous tribes each have their own language and a high percentage of Gambians are bilingual. The climate of The Gambia is tropical in nature with two distinct seasons. The dry season is from November to May and the country experiences warm and pleasant conditions. The wet season, June to October, is hot and humid with frequent heavy rain showers.
The Gambia’s healthcare system is three-tier in structure, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary, and is implemented at national level according to the country’s health strategy. Approximately 63% of total health expenditure is drawn from government funds with bilateral and multilateral donations, external borrowings, grants and NGO funds providing the remainder.
Primary healthcare focuses on villages with relatively low populations. A local health worker and midwife provide out-patient care and health education. They are also responsible for ensuring medical supplies are maintained at adequate levels and assisting mothers to be in home births. Secondary healthcare is provided by nineteen health care centers, which are both publicly and privately run. They provide in-patient and out-patient care, pharmaceutical services and each center has its own resident medical staff. Tertiary healthcare services are delivered by the four main hospitals, the Medical Research Council (MRC), private clinics and NGO operated clinics. The main referral hospital is in the capital, Banjul, with the remaining three hospitals located in Bansang, Farafenni and Bwiam. The Gambia does not have a national medical training facility thus all practicing medical staff are internationally qualified.
Expatriates living and working in The Gambia may not enjoy the same levels of accessibility to the health care system as the local population. Medical facilities are consistent to those of similar developing countries. Outside of the major population centers facilities are limited, some treatments are unavailable and emergency services are widely known to be slow and unreliable. Some medicines may not be available and travelers are often advised to bring their own supply of prescription drugs and over the counter medicines. It is also advisable to bring the prescription letter in case of emergency. Private clinics are quite insistent on treating fee paying patients only and while these costs are expensive in comparison to similar treatment at public clinics and hospitals, the level of service, treatment and attention is of a higher standard and more comparable to the facilities one would expect in developed nations. While the government has been successful in tackling some of the public health sector’s main concerns, major areas of difficulty that still need to be addressed include: ensuring all health centers become fully operational and adequately staffed and improving communication problems between the central and divisional levels of authority.
Medical health insurance is a relatively unknown concept to most Gambians and there are few public and private medical cover options locally available. Such is the perceived level of ignorance of medical insurance and related issues amongst the population, the Insurance Association of The Gambia (IAG), recently observed a week long media campaign to raise awareness levels of insurance in general and to inform people of the benefits and peace of mind insurance can bring to daily life.
First time visitors to the region are advised to seek medical advice before traveling. Due to its tropical climate and location along the Gambia River, arthropod and water borne diseases such as Malaria, Filariasis, Leishamaniasis, Relapsing Fever, Epidemic Typhus, Cholera, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E and Typhoid Fever are endemic. Cases of Hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS and Meningitis are relatively low compared to its larger neighbors; however, recent studies suggest cases of HIV/AIDS in particular are on the increase. Diarrhoeal diseases, including giardiasis for example, are common. Malaria is widespread and while there is a risk of contracting this disease at all times, this risk increases during the wet and humid conditions between June to October. Visitors are strongly advised to use insect repellant and to wear trousers and long sleeve shirts at all times. Those who experience influenza and fever type symptoms are urged to seek immediate medical attention. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is requested at port of entry for any traveler arriving from endemic or infected areas. Travelers in general should note that even if they are not required to produce the certificate on arrival, vaccination is strongly recommended if you intend visiting rural areas.
There is easy access to clean and safe drinking water in urban and resort areas, however, vigilance should be exercised in quieter, less populated areas where water for drinking and brushing teeth should be boiled or suitably sterilized before use. Meat, fish and vegetables should be cooked before consumption and unpasteurized dairy products should be avoided.
While overall crime levels in The Gambia are quite low, petty street crime can be a problem. Visitors should be aware of pickpockets in crowded areas, in particular when visiting markets and when using public transport. Traveling by road in The Gambia can be long and arduous, given the poor road conditions and lack of street lighting. Those traveling by car should ensure windows and doors are locked to help prevent carjacking.
Emergency procedures should be adopted in the case of an accident or illness or those who are the victim of a criminal offense. Citizens requiring emergency ambulance services should dial 116, those requiring police assistance should dial 117 and those who require fire services should dial 118. The Gambian Police Force operates a 24 hour emergency helpline at (220) 422 4914 although it should be noted that these emergency numbers may or may not have an English speaking operator available.
Purchasing medical insurance before traveling to The Gambia is strongly recommended. To ensure you are adequately protected from high healthcare and medical treatment costs, invest in an international health insurance plan. For more information about the services Pacific Prime can offer, to receive a free Gambia Health insurance quote, or to acquire additional health insurance information, please contact one of our dedicated advisers today.