Healthcare in Angola

In recent years Angola has grown in popularity as a destination for expats in search of adventure and generous salary packages. However, the country bears the reputation of having extremely poor public healthcare services, with only a small fraction of government expenditure spent on health. Angola’s healthcare system comprises two sectors; public and private. While treatment at state hospitals and clinics comes at no cost, the majority of the population still has extremely limited access to medical care.

The country’s best hospitals are found in the capital city of Luanda. However, even these are not usually up to the standards that many expats would be accustomed to. Most medical staff in Angola speak Portuguese, but not English. Because of the high number of Cuban doctors in Angola, expats may also be able to find Spanish-speaking doctors.

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While it is free, public healthcare in Angola is severely underfunded and understaffed. It’s also extremely difficult to access, with both locals and expats opting for private healthcare instead.

Regardless of affordability, treatment for expats at state institutions is highly discouraged. The doctors, nurses and caregivers tend to be insufficiently trained and have to make do with the outdated medical technology and infrastructure available in Angola.

Expats in Angola, as well as local citizens who can afford it, generally choose to invest in private healthcare which has cover for emergency evacuation to better healthcare facilities in nearby South Africa. Those who can afford to often also travel to destinations such as Namibia, Cuba, Spain and Portugal for more complicated procedures and treatments.

Employers will normally provide expats with international health insurance, proving access to private healthcare. While some private clinics are better than state facilities, they are still generally considered inadequate and most expats choose to travel abroad for treatment, especially for issues requiring specialist expertise. Some companies may even have basic medical facilities on site, allowing people to be stabilised or treated before potentially being evacuated to better equipped institutions.

Pharmacies, called farmácias, are mostly found in Luanda and tend to be extremely understocked. Those in hospitals and clinics are often open 24 hours a day.

Expats are advised to take note of the generic names for any medication they might be taking, as brand names tend to vary from country to country. Due to medication shortages in Angola, it is also advisable to travel with a supply of any chronic medication that expats might need during their stay in the country. Proof of prescription should be carried as it may be required for inspection.

There are many health hazards in Angola. The threat of HIV/AIDS, malaria and neonatal disorders are some of the most prevalent of these. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, expats in Angola also run the risk of contracting typhoid, tuberculosis, cholera and diarrheal diseases. It is vital that vaccinations are taken for these diseases before arrival in the country. Furthermore, expats should ensure that all their regular vaccinations are up-to-date before moving to Angola.

It is also essential that expats ensure that they have an adequate supply of anti-malarial tablets to cover them for the duration of their stay in the country. Preventative measures against bug bites such as the use of mosquito nets and insect repellent are recommended. As rabies is also a concern in Angola, it is best to avoid contact with animals in public spaces.

Dialling 112 will put expats through to operators dealing with medical emergencies. Unfortunately, ambulance services in Angola often don’t reach the more remote and rural areas, and operate almost exclusively in Luanda. Expats are advised to prepare their own transport and have the number of their nearest local hospital on hand for emergencies.