The public sector dominates the health system in Botswana, operating up to 98 percent of the health facilities. However, there is a huge gap in quality between public and private medical provisions. We recommend expats purchase private health cover for Botswana.
As in much of the rest of Africa, the public healthcare system mainly serves a lower-income bracket, while expats and those who can afford it use the private healthcare system. Many local people in Botswana rely on faith healing or herbalists, both of which currently operate informally as the country is yet to regulate traditional medical practice.
Although there are adequate provisions in Botswana’s private hospitals, medical evacuation to neighbouring South Africa is common in serious cases.
Public healthcare in Botswana
Botswana offers universal healthcare to all its citizens. A nominal fee may be charged for some health services in the public sector, but sexual reproductive health services and antiretroviral therapy services are free.
Healthcare professionals working in public hospitals are generally well trained. Unfortunately, problems of being under-staffed and under-resourced contribute to a strain in public healthcare. Large public health facilities are mainly in Gaborone. Outside the capital, medical provisions are of a lower and variable standard, and resources are limited across the country.
The country’s public healthcare system focuses on disease prevention. Botswana has had one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence, so a number of non-governmental organisations and public health facilities provide related services, such as counselling and testing.
Expats should carry identification and proof of medical insurance to avoid being taken to a public facility in an emergency.
Private healthcare in Botswana
The standard of medical treatment in Botswana's major towns is generally good. Many doctors in private hospitals in Botswana are locals educated elsewhere, returning to their home country to practise medicine.
While mobile clinics are available in remote areas, health facilities are more limited further from urban areas.
Private healthcare in Botswana is expensive. Outpatients are generally asked to pay cash before receiving treatment. Moreover, for emergency services, patients may only be treated if they have health insurance. So, to ensure access to the best quality of care and medical treatment in Botswana, expats should invest in a good health plan.
Health insurance in Botswana
If expats travel outside of Botswana regularly or will be returning home, it’s a good idea to purchase an international health plan, which will cover them wherever they go.
Expats in Botswana should ensure their health plan covers medical evacuation. If their employer provides medical cover, they should also evaluate whether it is comprehensive enough to provide for their specific needs.
Health hazards and vaccinations in Botswana
Before moving to Botswana, expats are recommended to have the following vaccines:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow fever
Expats will need to take malaria prevention, particularly if they will be in the districts of Central, Chobe, Ghanzi, North-East and North-West. The cities of Francistown and Gaborone are generally considered to have low to no risk of malaria. Nevertheless, we recommend new arrivals consult a healthcare professional about antimalarial medication, and make use of mosquito nets and insect repellent.
Botswana has had occasional incidents of rabies and anthrax, while tick bites are also a risk in the bush.
Expats are also advised to avoid drinking tap water, or at least drink filtered water.
Emergency medical services in Botswana
Expats who need emergency medical care must dial 997 to call for an ambulance. Ambulance services reach the areas of Francistown, Gaborone, Kasane, Lobatse, Mahalapye, Maun, Mochudi, Palapye and Phikwe.
MRI Botswana is the country's leading emergency service provider and offers both ground and air ambulances.