Healthcare in Tanzania

Tanzania offers breath-taking landscapes, fascinating wildlife and tranquil lakes. Though local culture can be quite different from Western norms, the adjustment is often significantly eased by the typically friendly and welcoming attitude of Tanzanians.

Most expats moving to Tanzania do so to work in industries such as construction, tourism and agriculture, or as part of a corporate move within their existing company. There are a number of humanitarian projects based within the country and these also draw expats from around the world.

Unfortunately, the quality of medical care in the country is generally low, and expats will likely need to make arrangements for a comprehensive private international health insurance plan.

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Medical assistance can be hard to find in Tanzania, particularly outside of major cities. Inadequate funding plagues the country’s public health system with the result that the available facilities, staff and resources aren’t adequate to accommodate Tanzania’s growing population.

Expats working in the public sector are automatically signed up for the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), which allows access to public healthcare. Because of the low quality of care at government hospitals and clinics, most expats avoid using public healthcare facilities even if they have access via the NHIF.

It is common practice for expats to purchase private health insurance in addition to making the mandatory NHIF contributions, so that they can use private healthcare providers instead. Those who work in the private sector can sign up for the NHIF voluntarily.

Most expats opt to use private doctors and hospitals in Tanzania. However, options for private healthcare are generally limited to a few facilities in Dar es Salaam. For emergency or specialised treatment, medical evacuation to Kenya or South Africa will often be recommended to expats.

Medical treatment in Tanzania is usually expensive, particularly in the private sector. It is therefore imperative that expats ensure they have a comprehensive healthcare plan which covers not only day-to-day medical expenses, but transportation and treatment costs in case of medical evacuation as well.

Pharmacies in Tanzania can be found attached to hospitals in large cities, but are harder to find in more rural areas. Pharmacies across the country are prone to running out of stock, so expats taking chronic medication must ensure they can access an adequate supply.

Tanzania has one of the highest incidences of HIV/AIDS in the world, so appropriate precautions should be taken against contracting the virus while in the country, such as practising safe sex and not sharing needles.

Mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria and dengue fever are also prevalent, particularly in rural areas. It is recommended that expats in at-risk regions take prophylaxis, sleep under a mosquito net, and make use of insect repellents.

In the event of a medical emergency expats can call 112, although local emergency care is not recommended. Expats should be prepared to transport themselves to a nearby hospital or medical facility in case of emergency. It is also advisable to keep the contact details for a nearby hospital on hand.

However, the best course of action for expats is generally to receive treatment in a nearby country with higher standards of medical care. Transport is usually by air ambulance, which is arranged by one’s insurance provider.