Aerial view of the city of Addis Ababa, showing the densely packed houses

Learn about the Healthcare System and Insurance Options for Expats in Ethiopia

Becoming an expatriate in Ethiopia, a country steeped in rich history and culture, is exciting. Before packing your bags, get to know about the Ethiopian healthcare system and insurance options for expats and digital nomads.

Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in its continent. Nestled in an area known as “Horn of Africa,” this multilingual country is home to vast fertile lands, virgin forests, and plentiful rivers. Despite brimming with agricultural opportunities, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. But with the recent changes, windows of opportunities have opened up for expats.

Fortunately, the country has seen economic success since 2018 under democratic leadership. Plus, it has made substantial socio-economic progress for the last two decades. There’s been an increase in school enrollment and life expectancy rate and a significant drop in child and maternal mortality rates. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) regards Ethiopia among the top five growing economies in the world.

As a globally emerging market selling agriculture and light manufacturing products, Ethiopia has unique opportunities for digital nomads.

Overview of Healthcare in Ethiopia

Although Ethiopia’s healthcare system is still developing, access to medical services is better in cities. Addis Ababa has more than ten state hospitals. There are approximately 120 state hospitals and over 410 healthcare centers across this African country. In various state hospitals, you can access medical facilities without paying. But be mindful of the fact that the state of public healthcare here is not the same as it is in the western countries. Getting to know your healthcare and insurance options before purchasing an expatriate health insurance plan is highly advisable when traveling to Ethiopia.

The inadequate healthcare system has made the country’s health indicators rank very low. We advise expats to obtain a comprehensive Ethiopia health insurance policy before arriving here. If you are likely to visit rural areas, you may struggle to find the right healthcare center or medical professionals. People who need to be evacuated to a different country for any medical treatment end up paying as much as USD 100,000.

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How the Ethiopian Healthcare System Works for Expats

The responsibility of developing the country’s public healthcare policies, regulations, and programs and collaborating with international organizations is with The Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MOH). The ministry has launched a four-phase Health Sector Development Plan (HSDP) to improve the country’s healthcare. The stated objectives of HSDP are reducing child and maternal mortality, and limiting the rates of infection for diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, etc.

The Ethiopian government is trying to overcome the serious issues plaguing the health sector. Most health problems the country is facing emerge from nutritional deficiencies, hygiene, and poor sanitation. The shortage of trained and qualified medical personnel only makes matters worse. Just 20 percent of Ethiopian children receive the vaccination, resulting in a high rate of child mortality. There is also a massive disparity between the quality and frequency of urban/rural areas.

Public Healthcare in Ethiopia

Technically, the Ethiopian government provides free healthcare to its citizens. A few government hospitals are overcrowded. Even the existing ones lack adequate equipment and efficient human resources. The number of hospitals in the capital Addis Ababa is higher compared to those in other parts of the country. You generally find long queues of locals at these hospitals. In remote regions of the country, the quality of healthcare systems and infrastructure is poor. So having health insurance will help you navigate the Ethiopian healthcare system.

Private Healthcare in Ethiopia

There are several small clinics and private hospitals in Addis Ababa. However, most of these do not link to any insurance system and would charge you for their services. Look for hospitals and medical centers that have direct access agreements with various global health insurance companies. Bethzatha Hospital, British Embassy Clinic, and Girum Hospital are among those hospitals that accept medical insurance.

Expats living in Ethiopia should buy a comprehensive medical insurance plan. It is advisable to take all vaccination shots as prescribed before leaving for Ethiopia. You should also carry along essential medicines with you.

Pharmacies & Emergency Services in Ethiopia

You will find pharmacies in all major cities and towns of Ethiopia, and there are plenty of them in Addis Ababa. If you have been recommended to take certain medicines along with you, make sure you do. In case you are suffering from health problems like diabetes, depression, asthma, and heart diseases, etc., it will be advisable to avoid remote areas. You also need to take into account that your medical insurance doesn’t work everywhere, so it will always be better to carry some cash along.

When in Ethiopia, expats can seek emergency services by dialing 939. Before traveling to any part of Ethiopia, having a few relevant contact numbers will always come in handy.

Best Private International Medical Insurance for Expats Living in Ethiopia

Buying an international health insurance plan before traveling to Ethiopia is always recommended. Although most medical centers will accept only money, some may be willing to consider the insurance cover you have. However, you may have to pay in cash first, and only later you would be reimbursed. It is always good to inquire with the hospital and the medical insurance regarding the procedure of payment.

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