Malawi Medical Insurance
Malawi, the “Warm Heart of Africa”, is a landlocked country located to Zambia’s southeast, Tanzania’s southwest, and Mozambique’s north, northeast, and northwest. With Malawi’s Lake Malawi National Park and Chongoni Rock Art Area both on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Malawi is renowned for its natural beauty. Malawi is hot in the south and temperate in the north all year round. The largest tribes in Malawi include the Tumbuka, Chewa, and Yao. Even with so many different ethnic groups, one underlying similarity amongst all the cultures is the widespread appreciation of dancing and music. Traditional music and dances are an integral part of all forms of rituals and ceremonies, from marriages to celebrations, and initiation rites. In addition, Malawi has a strong tradition in basketry, mask carving, and oil paintings.
Malawi is both one of the world’s most densely populated and least developed countries. Its economy is mostly based on agriculture, which makes up more than a third of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With agriculture driving the economy of the country, around 85 percent of the population live in rural areas, which has made the government’s attempts to provide health care coverage to its populace even more difficult. In the past, Malawi’s economy has been heavily dependent on aid from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other nations. However, in recent years, foreign aid has dropped by almost 80 percent because of concerns of corruption. Moreover, in 2009, investments fell by 23 percent, which has made it increasingly more difficult for Malawi to pay for imports and to grow its economy. The Malawian health care system is currently in a crisis. Equipment and infrastructure are usually in much need of an update. There is limited staff and medical supplies. Moreover, because most Malawians do not have simple medical supplies and are not used to administering basic first aid, minor illnesses or injuries such as burns and headaches are treated at the hospital, which greatly increases the patient base. All of these factors contribute to the broken state of the current Malawian health care system.
The Malawian health care system is socialized and organized by the Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP), which develops all policies, regulations, and programs. All the funding comes from the government and international aid. Its health services are organized into a three-tiered system where resources trickle down between tiers, often leaving the second and third tiers with barely any medical supplies. At the bottom are the rural health centers and hospitals, which may have marginally trained clinicians. Even if there are medical supplies and unsanitary, out-of-date operating rooms at these locations, there are no trained doctors to provide the services. Rural health centers try to target pre-natal and post-natal care because Malawi has an alarmingly high rate of death due to birth complications. As of 2000, 1 in 7 women died of birth complications. The rural centers also try to provide education because another major problem is the lack of sanitary hygiene practices. Cultural beliefs and traditional practices have led to poor health conditions. For example, houses are poorly ventilated, and people tend to bathe, put their waste in, and get their drinking water from rivers and local water sources. Increased malarial infections from rises in the mosquito population are a particularly high risk because there is no access to running water and pit latrines are used.
The second tier is made up of district hospitals that are located in the 27 districts of Malawi. The second tier may have more basic health supplies than the third tier, but conditions are generally not much better. Although there may be x-ray machines and diagnostic laboratories, the equipment is usually dilapidated. There may be a few nurses and clinicians, but doctors are rare. Doctors who can perform more complicated medical procedures are virtually nonexistent.
At the first tier, there are facilities with the most advanced equipment, supplies, medicine, and staff in the country. These hospitals are all located in the largest urban areas of the country. Even at the top, there is still a lack of supplies and staff. There are less than 100 registered doctors and 3,000 registered nurses for all of the country’s 12,000,000 Malawians. The doctors and nurses have to work long hours and have little protection from the illnesses that their patients may carry. To worsen the problem, most doctors and nurses who train in the country’s medical schools leave the country.
There are some alternatives to the country’s social health care system. Some private-for-profit clinics can be found in urban areas. However, the prices are well above the price ranges that the large majority of Malawians can afford. In addition, there are some foreign organizations, such as the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) that charge affordable rates or provide free services. In addition, there are also foreign and domestic NGOs, which have small local health projects that provide services at the community level. Most of these also work closely with the MOHP to ensure that they are following national policies and standards.
Strong cultural practices and religion have made traditional medicine a large part of the Malawian health care system. Most people will choose to use both traditional and allopathic medicine to compliment each other. There are two types of traditional doctors. Traditional healers deal mainly with diseases of the body and spirit, and their practices vary between different sects. Each traditional healer may have his own practices and rituals. Many also include preaching and sermons in their therapies in order to remove demons from a patient. The other type of traditional providers is a traditional birth attendant (TBA). TBAs tend to have more primary health care training and provide allopathic pre-natal and post-natal care services that are integrated with religious and traditional practices. The MOHP works closely with the traditional medical community to ensure safe, sanitary practices and to increase awareness of basic public health education.
One of the most pressing health problems of Malawi is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) epidemic. About 16–18 percent of Malawians are infected. The majority of these are in the most productive age group of the population, ages 18-49. Not only does HIV strongly affect the health sector of Malawi, it also has wide-spreading effects on the social and economic sectors of the country. Approximately, 80,000 people a year die from Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This leaves about 600,000 orphans, who must live with relatives or on the streets, which puts pressure on Malawian social services. Without a strong, healthy working force, the economy also greatly suffers. AIDS medicine is not accessible to most Malawians because of the expenses of distribution. The MOHP is trying harder to concentrate on education, but the effects are small and slow. HIV is likely to continue to be a major health crisis in Malawi for decades to come. Travelers to Malawi should be careful to not engage in any behavior that may lead to an HIV infection.
Although tourists and expatriates can use the health care facilities free of charge, the standards and range of services and supplies are significantly below Western Europe and North American standards. Malawi is currently undergoing a health crisis. In addition to a lack of equipment, supplies, and personnel, there is also a large patient base, which can cause waiting times to be a day or longer. Signing up for an international health insurance policy beforehand is strongly advised. Be sure to look for a policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. Rural parts of Malawi have basic health facilities that are typically out of supplies and medicine. For serious accidents or illnesses, an emergency evacuation may be needed, which can be extremely expensive without insurance coverage.
Travelers are recommended to get their hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, rabies, and tuberculosis vaccinations before heading to Malawi. Recently, tuberculosis incidence rates have significantly increased. In 2006, 377 per 100,000 people were infected with tuberculosis, a dramatic increase from 258 per 100,000 in 1990. In addition, diarrhea is a common affliction, so be sure to bring diarrhea and rehydration medicine. Always bring adequate supplies of personal prescription medicine and supplies. It may also be difficult to obtain proper nutrition in the food found in some areas, so travelers are also advised to bring vitamin supplements.
Malaria is also endemic in Malawi. It is responsible for 40 percent of hospitalizations and hospital deaths. Be sure to bring malaria medicine, insect repellant, and bed nets to protect from malaria and mosquitos that may carry the disease. Travelers in Malawi, who suspect that they may have malaria and need help with diagnosis, can contact the CDC malaria hotline at 770-488-7788 (M-F, 9am-5pm, Eastern time). If it is an emergency, call 770-488-7100 to speak with a CDC Malaria Branch clinician.
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.