Health care system in Zambia
Zambia’s healthcare system is decentralized, therefore it is broken up into three different levels: hospitals, health centers and health posts. Hospitals are separated into primary (district), secondary (provincial) and tertiary (central). It offers universal healthcare for its citizens, yet the health care system in Zambia remains one of the most inadequate in the world.

Universal Health Care

Zambia is working on implementing universal health care coverage for its citizens to diminish the burden of accessing life-saving treatments. At the moment, Zambia’s government-run health facilities offer basic healthcare packages at the primary (district)level free-of-charge. Their services are under the National Health Care Package (NHCP). With this being said, due to “capacity constraints” and limited funding, the services sometimes do not reach those who need it most. Luckily, the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Zambia and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have come together in order to help restore the health care system in Zambia. They are investigating ways to effectively set priorities so that processes in health facilities can run faster and smoother.

Private vs Public Healthcare

Even though there are a good number of public and private health facilities, a lot of the public hospitals are chronically underfunded. Another major problem in the public healthcare sector is that there is inequality in the order that doctors meet with patients. As mentioned above, the public sector is divided into three divisions, level one hospitals are in charge of provision of services and level two and three hospitals are referral or specialized hospitals.

District Health Offices (DHOs) are staffed by community health assistants (CHAs). Over the course of their one-year training, they are prepared to improve the management of malaria, child and maternal health and common preventable health conditions. DHOs spend 80 percent of their time on disease prevention and health promotion and another 20 percent “at the health post.”

There are good private hospitals in Zambia’s big cities, for example, Lusaka. They offer their services to everyone with the majority of people that participate in the private sector being foreigners or affluent Zambians. Over 50 percent of formal health services in rural Zambia are private clinics or hospitals. They also account for 30 percent of all health care in the nation. Even though they offer higher quality services at a faster rate, when a serious medical emergency presents itself, the majority of the time people will be evacuated to South Africa since they are able to provide better medical services.

Pharmacies

Pharmacies are not always stocked with the medications or drugs that most people need when they are sick. Even though they are available in most major cities and towns in Zambia, they do not operate on a 24/7 schedule. Their typical work week is Monday to Saturday. When people are in need of a pharmacy, it is recommended to go to one that is attached to a hospital or a clinic for immediate assistance.

Diseases

Zambia’s top five killer diseases are HIV/AIDS, neonatal disorders, lower respiratory infections, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases. Zambia also sits in the malaria belt, so it is recommended to have a mosquito net to prevent mosquito bites. Other diseases like cholera and dysentery are common during rainy seasons. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been helping Zambia since 2000 after establishing an office in the nation. The CDC “funds and assists international and local organizations” like the Ministry of Health to “provide health services at the national and community level.” In addition, the CDC has performed more than 173,000 medical male circumcisions and has prevented 98 percent of HIV exposed infants from getting HIV in 2018.

– Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr