Zambia’s difficult conditions make good quality health insurance vital, believes April International UK

Zambia’s healthcare facilities are run by the Ministry of Health and are categorized into Urban Health Centres and Rural Health Centres. Zambia offers universal healthcare to all its’ people. However by western standards this healthcare is very basic. Only 50 percent of arural people have access to a medical facility of any kind, compared to 99 percent of urban dwellers. There are good hospitals in Zambia, however, but the current health system is over-stretched and under-funded, so unless a patient has a critical illness, it will usually take time to be treated at one of the public hospitals. An alternative to public facilities are private hospitals which are better funded and located in the main Zambian cities – Lusaka, Livingstone and in the “copper belt”.

These are much better equipped, and will accept payment from genuine health insurance schemes. In 2006, healthcare was made free for people living in rural areas, eliminating fees which for years had made health care inaccessible for millions. However a recent evaluation suggests that free health care has done little to improve access to services for rural Zambians. The health sector currently faces ongoing obstacles such as funding cuts, lack of crucial medicines and a shortage of skilled workers. Some of the major diseases in Zambia include Malaria, respiratory infections, diarrhoea, eye infections and skin infections, ear/nose/throat infections, intestinal worms and anaemia. Factors that have affected the country’s health sector include a critical shortage of essential health workers, inadequate funding and poor state of health facilities and equipment, poor infrastructure and poor sanitation standards in many areas.

According to a recent Ministry of Health report, the country’s health sector still faces significant challenges including the high disease burden which is compounded by the HIV/AIDS epidemic; critical shortages of health personnel; deteriorating health infrastructure; significant legal reforms; on-going restructuring of the health sector; a weak economy; and inadequate funding to the health sector. All of these factors have significant implications on the organization and management of the healthcare sector, with the result that very few facilities meet the most basic of standards required by international health insurance companies such as April International UK. The combination of these factors means that for the average client, the emphasis is almost always on treating the patient outside of Zambia. As a result, foreign workers in Zambia need to ensure they have reliable health cover and access to an Assistance Provider who is capable of working in areas which sometimes can be very hard to access. CEO at April International UK, Debbie Purser, “Although State run, Zambia’s healthcare facilities are by any measure usually regarded as very basic. UNICEF figures suggest some 14% of the population lives with HIV/AIDS and with an average adult life expectancy across the population of just 46 years, it is easy to see why the only option in the vast majority of cases is to arrange an emergency medical evacuation, which we would offer as a matter of course to all our policy holders. In all probability, this will mean treatment taking place in one of the modern centres in South Africa, where facilities are generally excellent.