Swaziland Medical Insurance
Swaziland has the highest infection rate of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the world. Approximately 26.1 percent of adults and over 50 percent of adults in their 20s in Swaziland are infected. The situation is so grave that the United Nations Development Program has made a report that says the future of Swaziland may be endangered if the HIV infection rate does not decline. Swaziland loses 2 percent of its population a year due to HIV related deaths. Swaziland’s life expectancy is 32 years, which is the lowest in the world. In 2004, the Swaziland government officially recognized that it was undergoing an Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) crisis. Unfortunately, it becomes a vicious cycle as many children are born with AIDS. In 2004, 38.8 percent of pregnant women were infected with HIV. Furthermore, Swazis have an earlier start to sex for cultural reasons. Women and men are often required to prove their fertility before marriage. The average age for girls and boys to begin sexual activity is 16 and 18 years, respectively. This increases their possible exposure to an HIV infection, which is why HIV infection rates are quite high amongst young adults in their 20s. Other problems that plague the Swazi government’s ability to create an adequate healthcare system are increasing poverty and droughts. Other problems that contribute to rising health problems include the lack of access to safe water and sanitation services.
Swazis have access to government-subsidized health services. However, most people still need to pay out-of-pocket for these services. As much as 41.7 percent of citizens also opt to pay for private health care instead. Swaziland’s public health sector is made up of 6 national hospitals, and 200 health centers and clinics. However, most of these facilities do not have adequate supplies, medicine, and most importantly, personnel. In 2008, the Swaziland public health sector had a vacancy of 36 percent among medical staff, 40 percent among dental staff, and 52 percent among pharmaceutical staff. Annually, Swaziland trains around 80 nurses. However, this is not sufficient to cover the losses in staff. Swaziland suffers from a “brain drain” which is a situation in which skilled personnel emigrate out of the country in search of a better life elsewhere. Poor working conditions are reflected in the medical staff’s discontentment. Very recently, in the beginning of March 2011, around 400 nurses went on a strike that caused many public hospitals and facilities to close because the nurses wanted to be paid for working overtime.
The Swazi public health care system is administered centrally. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) is in charge of the development of all health policies, regulations, laws, and standards. It is also responsible for making sure that the facilities within the system maintain these standards and follow these policies. The MoHSW, in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), is working on developing a new policy that focuses on the development of a more efficient management of resources. In addition, the MoHSW and WHO are also developing a National Health Strategic Plan that aims to develop policies in areas such as blood transfusion services, laboratory services, and the control of drugs and medicines. There are also Youth Friendly Corners that are designed to improve the health of adolescents. However, these centers are highly under-utilized.
In addition to the public sector, there are also private and traditional medical practitioners. The private sector is not strongly regulated, but individual private practitioners must register with the government. Health centers, however, are not even required to be accredited. This creates a big discrepancy in the guidelines, policies, and programs between public and private facilities. Traditional medicine, not only has a strong root in the cultural heritage of Swazi, but it also plays a large role in healthcare in Swaziland. Over 80 percent of the population still go to traditional healers for medical issues, but most tend to use allopathic medicine as well. Traditional medicine practitioners tend to be cheaper than allopathic physicians. In addition, they may be located more closely, especially for Swazis living in rural parts of the country. Many herbal medical practitioners have no scientific methods of diagnosing patients, but have a system of using the same herbal remedies that have been used for generations. Like the private sector, traditional medicine is also not regulated by the government.
Overall, the Swazi healthcare system and general heath indicators are extremely low. In addition to the HIV epidemic, widespread poverty, tuberculosis, other major health problems include bilharzia, typhoid, tapeworm, gastroenteritis, malaria, kwashiorkor, and pellagra. Expatriates and visitors are able to use the public and private facilities, but an immediate payment is often required. In addition, expect overcrowding, long lines, short consultation times, and outdated infrastructure, equipment, and staff training.
Travelers and expatriates to Swazi should purchase an international health insurance policy before arriving in Swazi. Furthermore, it is highly recommended that travelers take out a policy that covers emergency evacuation and transportation costs. In the event that you are seriously injured, transportation costs can be as much as $100,000 USD.
Travelers visiting the country should get vaccinated against yellow fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, rabies, tetanus-diphtheria, mumps, measles, rubella, and meningococcus. In addition, malaria is prevalent throughout Swazi, so visitors need to carry anti-malarial medicine, sleep in bed nets, and use insect repellant. Always bring adequate supplies of personal prescription medicine and a doctor’s note for these prescriptions. It is also recommended that travelers bring diarrhea medicine, as diarrhea is a common ailment of travelers in this part of the world.
Travelers are also recommended to bring vitamin and dietary supplements as it may difficult to get proper nutrition in many parts of Swaziland.
Pacific Prime will consult and offer a wide range of policies to meet your individual needs should you plan to travel to Swaziland. We offer a wide variety of health care plans and travel insurance policies with possible benefit packages including dental, maternity, inpatient, outpatient, specialist consultations, and many more. Please contact our professional advisors today for a free quote and enjoy the security that our extensive Health Insurance Plans can provide.