Health Insurance in Zambia
Understanding the ins and outs of Zambia’s healthcare system is key if you’re planning to live in or travel to the country. This includes finding out how to access medical services, whether health insurance is needed, and any other useful tips. Fortunately, this guide has all you need to know in one place. What’s more, you’ll also get information on how to secure health insurance in Zambia, which is highly recommended. Read on to learn more, or click below for a free quote!
The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern-Central Africa, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola. Its capital city, Lusaka, in the south-central part, along with its Copperbelt Province to the northwest, is where the country’s core economic hubs are located, as well as where the majority of the country’s 17.35 million people reside. The former British colony gained its independence in 1964 and it’s now a unitary presidential constitutional republic. Zambia is overwhelmingly a Christian country and has English as its official language. The country is home to vast amounts of natural resources like minerals, wildlife, forestry, fresh water, and arable land. In terms of human development index (HDI), the country is ranked medium with a score of 0.591.
Healthcare system in Zambia
The Ministry of Health in Zambia oversees the health planning and funding allocation for the country’s public healthcare sector. In addition to this, the country is also home to a private healthcare sector. Whilst the government has declared the healthcare system as a priority sector, the standards are lower than what most expats are accustomed to.
Administration and delivery
In Zambia, health systems are classified into the following categories:
- Level one includes Health Posts, Rural Health Centers, and District Hospitals. This is where primary and preventative care is delivered.
- Level two includes Provincial and General Hospitals, which are responsible for curative care.
- Level three includes Central Hospital and the National University Teaching Hospital, providing specialized care.
Zambia’s healthcare policy states that “Every able-bodied Zambian with an income should contribute to the cost of his or her health”. However, those suffering from diseases such as tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), children under the age of 5, and adults over the age of 65 are exempt from fees.
Infrastructure and lack of specialist care
The Zambian health care infrastructure is poor, especially in rural areas. This is generally due to a lack of funding, poorly maintained facilities, a lack of qualified medical professionals, as well as supply shortages of medications and medical equipment. This includes the availability of basic medications, thus expats planning to live in or travel to Zambia should bring enough supply of medications to the country.
If bringing in medication into the country, it is advisable to check directly with the Zambian customs and/or relevant authorities on the legality of the medication. In addition to this, it’s also recommended to carry the prescription with you in case a custom official needs to see it upon your arrival in the country.
In Zambia’s bigger cities, you’re likely to find better quality private hospitals, which largely cater to expats and affluent Zambians. While some expats may have access to their company-sponsored clinics, which can provide basic medical care, most expats prefer to travel abroad for treatment.
This is because there is a lack of specialist diagnostic and treatment centers for conditions related to cardio-vascular, liver, renal, cancer, and others. Those who go abroad often go either to their home country or to South Africa, the UK, the US, and India. Expats are urged to be in possession of an international health insurance plan.
In the event of a medical emergency, the emergency services can be reached. However, the service is generally inadequate, especially outside Lusaka. According to the Zambia Tourism Agency, here’s the full list of emergency numbers:
- Emergency – 999
- Police – 991
- Lusaka, Central Police Station – 0211 220006
- Lusaka, Central Fire Station – 0211 220180
- Lusaka, Ambulance Service – 0211 220180
- National Telephone Operator – 100
- National Directory – 102
- International Operator – 090
- Ambulance – 991
- Fire Brigade – 993
- General Line – 0211 251200
- Casualty Direct Line – 0211 254115
- Livingstone Central Police – 0213 3 323575/320116
- Livingstone Fire Station – 0213 324043
For more serious emergencies, medical evacuation to another country may be needed. This is usually done via air ambulance and is very expensive. Given this, expats should ensure that their insurance plan covers this type of service.
Zambia Travel Advice
For those planning on visiting Zambia, it’s highly advisable to secure a travel insurance plan, if you don’t already have a valid international health insurance plan. This ensures that you’ll be covered in the event of health emergencies whilst in the country. Apart from this, here are some other useful travel tips to keep in mind:
Vaccinations and Health:
Before you make travel arrangements to Zambia, make sure that all your routine vaccinations and booster shots are up-to-date. For comprehensive information relating to current health threats and concerns, you should consult a travel medical care professional at least 6 weeks before you travel.
Some concerns include water-borne diseases (Cholera, Dysentery, Hepatitis A), diseases contracted via the respiratory tract (Tuberculosis, Meningococcal meningitis), diseases contracted from infected blood or bodily fluid (Hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS), and diseases contracted from animals (Rabies, Schistosomiasis).
As a general rule of thumb, you should carry first-aid medicine with you and take all the necessary precautions. This includes hygiene measures like only drinking bottled water, avoiding freshly made drinks and ice made from unclean water sources, as well as opt for cooked foods over raw foods.
You should also be aware of mosquito-related diseases like Malaria, contracted from the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. This type of mosquito feeds predominantly from dusk till dawn. Dengue fever is another common one, contracted from the bite of the Aedes mosquito is a non-medication preventable disease. The Aedes mosquito feeds predominantly during daylight hours.
There are various risk factors associated with contracting Malaria or Dengue fever, such as the length of stay, the season of travel, time and location, etc. To reduce the risk of contracting the disease, you should use insect repellent, wear long-sleeves and trousers, as well as sleep in air-conditioned rooms or use mosquito nets.
Crime and Safety:
Incidents of mugging, bag snatching, theft, car hijacking, and armed robberies are common in Zambia. Bandits target luxury cars and have been known to target stationary vehicles while they wait to enter gated properties. Attacks can occur anywhere in Zambia, especially in Lusaka, the Copperbelt towns and tourist centers. You’re advised to remain vigilant at all times.
If you’ll be traveling by car, you should note that car-hijackings have been reported on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo on the road between Mufurlira and Ndola. You are also advised not to stop for strangers even if flagged down and to keep doors locked and windows closed. If walking, you should avoid walking after dark.
Law and cultural sensitivity:
Homosexuality, pornography, and drugs are illegal in Zambia with long prison sentences being imposed on those that break the law. In addition to this, it’s also illegal to buy, sell, kill, or capture any protected wild animal or trade its part without a license. If you’re caught doing this, you will be prosecuted.
The government also considers some sites to be sensitive, including places like power stations and pumping stations, army barracks, and airports etc. Hence, avoid taking photographs of such places as it may lead to issues with the police. If you’re in doubt of whether taking pictures is allowed, it’s best to seek permission from an official or those responsible at the site.
Please note that the information on this page is not fully comprehensive and is subject to change without prior warning. It is advisable to consult with a local Zambian embassy should you have any doubts before you depart on your journey.
Private health insurance for expats in Zambia
Expats in Zambia are highly recommended to take out a private health insurance plan, given that the country’s healthcare services are of relatively poor quality. In particular, expats should make sure that their health insurance plan covers medical evacuation, as the costs associated with this are monumental.
Not sure where to begin in your search for health insurance? For example, what does a plan with no deductibles or excesses mean? Or whether it’s worth going for added benefits like outpatient treatments, as well as dental, vision, maternity, and more? Don’t worry as Pacific Prime is here to help you navigate the complex world of health insurance.
We offer vetted expat health insurance plans to foreign nationals in Zambia, along with support from our knowledgeable and friendly team of advisors. If you’d like to learn more about your health insurance options in Zambia, simply reach out to us for a no-obligation quote and insurance consultation!