Expat Health in Nigeria
Posted by Dannielle Noonan
Increasing investment in Nigeria’s coastline oil and gas industries is making the country a new expat hot spot, despite its ongoing fight against insurgency and reputation for high crime rates, corruption and a life expectancy of just 52 years of age.
Why do expats choose Nigeria?
The city’s strategic position in Africa has made it a hub for banks, industrial enterprises and even the music and film industry. Managerial talent is particularly in demand in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, as companies try to manage growth and train the local workforce.
Expats generally live in compounds, and the expat experience in Nigeria revolves around socialising and sports. Though it isn’t an ‘easy’ country to relocate to, especially for first time expats, English is the official language and this eases some barriers.
High salaries in Nigeria
A recent survey by InterNations found that Nigeria has more high-earning expats earning more than $250,000 (£160,000) per year than any other country on earth. Expats relocating to Nigeria for work are also highly likely to receive help with accommodation, transport and schooling etc to make the transition smoother.
However, it was also uncovered that expats in Africa work the longest hours, often logging 48 hour working weeks – and this can translate to health problems.
Doing business in Africa can involve many face to face meetings and travel around the country, which can have effects on your health. This is worrying because the quality of healthcare in Nigeria is an issue.
Safety and health threats for expats in Nigeria
Cross-border raids, kidnappings and shootings by Boko Haram, recent Ebola cases and poor health provision are all potential health and safety issues in Nigeria. Cholera is an ongoing epidemic in Nigeria and terrorism is a potential threat in the North East.
The Nigerian health care system has been overloaded with several infectious disease outbreaks.
Water and sanitation coverage is low. Just five years ago, it was estimated that only half the population had access to clean water. Lagos is one of the few cities with a functioning sewage system. Infant mortality, the usual indicator of heath care efficiency, is high at approximately 76 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is more than double South Africa’s rate.
Expats moving to Nigeria will need immunizations against the following:
- Hepatitis A and B
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)
- It’s also wise to take anti-malarial tablets and sleep in a mosquito net.
More recently, yellow fever vaccinations are a prerequisite for an STR (Subject To Regularisation) visa for Nigeria.
Healthcare in Nigeria
Nigeria lacks a coherent health system, the legacy of two decades of military rule when around $1 a person was spent on health, against an international guideline of $34 per capita.
Even now, the total expenditure on health care in Nigeria as % of GDP is 6.1 according to World Health Org. Many locals in Nigeria rely on faith healing or herbalists, with poor results.
A major problem afflicting the healthcare system in Nigeria is the so-called “brain drain” of medical staff. It is estimated that there are four doctors for every 10,000 inhabitants. Highly-trained experts often leave the country in order to pursue their profession in countries with better infrastructure or higher wages like the USA or UK.
Local public medical facilities in Africa are notoriously low quality. Nigerian hospitals face substantial challenges with equipment procurement, corruption, unstable power supply and counterfeit drugs. The country’s blood supply is also considered unsafe and if a blood transfusion is necessary, expats should first ascertain whether the blood has been screened for HIV, hepatitis B and C etc
Airlifting to the nearest high quality private healthcare facilities in Johannesburg for medical emergencies is common.
Health Insurance for Nigeria
Expats are not covered by the Nigerian healthcare system, and should use private medical facilities; though it’s unlikely all will meet Western standards. The majority of clinics in big cities offer out-patient care, as do private hospitals outside the cities.
Most companies offer health insurance for your move to Nigeria, but we recommend that you evaluate whether it is comprehensive enough to meet your specific needs. If you don't medical cover as part of your relocation package, we recommend to arrange for it privately to have access to the best medical facilities in Nigeria.
You can read our guide to evaluating your relocation package here.
Expats moving to Nigeria should bring a large supply of prescription medications with them as they may not be available locally. Discuss this with your doctor, and remember that bootleg versions of some drugs are rife in Nigeria – avoid these.
Immediate payment for medical treatment is usually required in Nigeria.
Not all health plans include emergency evacuation cover in their basic plans, which are designed for hospital treatment only. Given Nigeria’s inadequate health care provision this is not to be ignored. Medibroker advises that comprehensive cover is essential if you are going to live in Nigeria.