Healthcare in Kenya

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healthcare in kenyaThe quality and availability of healthcare in Kenya varies tremendously, depending on location, choice of hospital, and need for treatment.

Expats should make sure they're well informed of the health risks when moving to Kenya and it's essential that foreigners living in Kenya have comprehensive health insurance to cover any health-related issues that may occur during their time in the country.

Public healthcare in Kenya

Expats will want to steer clear of the government hospitals in Kenya. Underfunding has made for poor quality care and poorly staffed facilities, which leads to overcrowding and limited service provision.

There is a national healthcare plan in Kenya that all civil servants are required to join. Expats are eligible to take advantage of this, but most don't as healthcare services aren't up to the standards they're accustomed to and enrolling is a bureaucratic nightmare.

Private healthcare facilities in Kenya

Kenya has an extensive network of private healthcare facilities, from small local clinics to large hospitals. There are a number of private hospitals and medical clinics in Nairobi and Mombasa offering all medical services at international standards.

Private healthcare can be good, with small but modern health facilities and well-trained medical staff. However, for any serious operations, it's advised that expats look outside the country for help. South Africa has the best medical facilities on the continent.

Pharmacies in Kenya

Pharmacies in Kenya are also referred to as chemists and expats can easily find these in any major town or city.

The best pharmacies are often attached to hospitals. There are also a number of trustworthy pharmacy chains in Kenya such as Yaya Chemists, TriChem Pharmacies and MedWorld Pharmacies. Branches of these can be spotted in almost any town centre or shopping mall in Kenya.

Expats suffering from chronic illnesses or those who need prescription medication should try to bring a supply with them, as well as copies of the prescription and generic names of the drugs.

Expat health insurance

Private health insurance is a must in Kenya. Without it, healthcare costs are just as expensive as in Western countries, and covering the costs for emergency care out-of-pocket can be impossible. For example, medical evacuations out of Kenya, usually to South Africa, can cost close to USD 100,000.

Often employers relocating expats to Kenya will provide insurance. But if not, expats should obtain suitable coverage prior to arriving. They should ensure their plan covers private healthcare in Africa and, more importantly, emergency medical evacuations.


Pre-travel restrictions and vaccinations for Kenya

Expats should get the latest medical advice on vaccinations and malaria prevention at least three weeks prior to arriving in Kenya. A malaria risk exists all year round, but more so in the coastal regions than in Nairobi and on the high central plateau.

Immunisation against yellow fever, polio and typhoid are often recommended. Preventing bites from sandflies, mosquitoes and tsetse flies is the best protection against malaria, dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases. It's recommended that expats sleep under a mosquito net.
Water quality in Kenya is variable, so expats are advised not to drink water directly from the tap unless they have a pathogen- and bacteria-killing water filter. Cholera outbreaks occur frequently. Expats should take care not to drink contaminated water and be cautious of food prepared by unlicensed roadside vendors.

Emergency medical services in Kenya

The standard of emergency medical services in Kenya can be varied. In cities like Nairobi and Mombasa, the standard of emergency medical services is good with the Kenyan Red Cross and St John Ambulance providing services to those in need. In rural areas, however, the standard of emergency medical services is poor or non-existent.

Private hospitals in Kenyan cities often have a small fleet of ambulances that are sent out to assist patients. However, in most cases, it will be faster to get a patient to the nearest hospital in a private vehicle, as waiting times for ambulances in Kenya can be long.

In the event of an emergency, expats can call an ambulance on the emergency number 999.

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Our Kenya Expert

Marianne's picture
Melbourne, Australia. Nairobi, Kenya
I'm an Australian now living in Kenya. I spend my time travelling the country, volunteering, and helping those less... more

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