Healthcare guide for expats moving to Nigeria

The inefficiency of the Nigerian healthcare system is one of the most serious problems in this West African country. The World Health Organisation conducted a study in 2010 which placed Nigeria’s healthcare as one of the worst in the world (ranked 187th out of 190 countries).

Indeed, public health is greatly underfunded meaning a shortage both in facilities and medical personnel. Although public hospitals and medical centres are able to treat minor illnesses, it is advisable to be evacuated to other countries in the event of a more serious illness.

For these reasons, it is strongly recommended to take out international health insurance which includes evacuation or repatriation, before moving to Nigeria.

Health statistics

  • Total Population: 173,615,000
  • Gross national income per capita (PPP international $, 2013): 5,360
  • Life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2013): 54/554
  • Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population, 2013): 357/325
  • Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2013): 217
  • Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2013) 3.9
Health in Nigeria

Nigeria’s health insurance plan (National Health Insurance Scheme – NHIS) is a system that was established in 1999 and intended to be universal. However, in practice, the system is flawed, and access to free and good quality healthcare for the entire population is limited.

Funding for healthcare in Nigeria is very low and this seriously affects the quality of care.

Those who can afford it, such as state employees and private sector employees, use their Nigerian health insurance for treatment abroad. This further decreases the funding towards public health in Nigeria.

Public hospitals are overcrowded and numerous infectious diseases develop there as a consequence of a lack of hygiene.

Many Nigerians die in hospital from diseases such as cholera, tetanus, and polio, which develop due to poor hospital management. The low life expectancy of Nigerians reflects structural health problems of this country; it is only 53 years for men and 55 for women.

It is therefore recommended for expatriates to only receive consultations in private hospitals and clinics. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the conditions in private hospitals in Nigeria are still below the standards of most Western hospitals. Although private hospitals and clinics in urban areas are able to perform routine examinations and treat common health problems, these institutions may lack sufficient equipment and qualified medical personnel to diagnose and treat certain complex illnesses. Conequently, it is advised to travel to South Africa or Europe for specialist treatment.

Beware of fraudulent doctors: there are many people in Nigeria operating without authorisation or training, posing as legitimate doctors. The safest way to avoid them is to always consult clinics and hospitals accredited by the state.
Expatriate Health Insurance

An international health insurance policy is highly recommended in Nigeria, in order to seek treatment abroad in case of a serious medical problem. You should check with your insurance company or employer that your policy includes emergency evacuation abroad. Furthermore, most medical facilities require payment in advance. Health insurance helps to avoid having to make up-front payments, which can sometimes be very high.

International health insurance policies are also called ‘First euro health insurance’ (or first dollar/sterling, depending on the chosen currency or country in which the policy is underwritten) because they reimburse your medical expenses from the first euro that you spend.

Whatever your choice of expatriate health insurance, you must ensure that it is in line with the legislation of your country of expatriation.

If you would like to insure yourself and your family more fully, Expat Assure can also advise you on life insurance and income protection. To find out more, please, read our Protection page.

Which expat insurance should you choose?
We can help you decide which international health insurance or protection plan is best suited to your needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us to request your insurance comparison.
Overview of medical costs

Consultation with a general practitioner or specialist private is between 10,000 and 40,000 Naira (42€-185€/£30-£131/$46-$203*) depending on the doctor and the institution chosen. This excludes the cost of treatment and medical examinations.

A hospital stay including one night in a single room costs between 30,000 and 100,000 Naira (133€-445€/£99-£326/$154-$505*). This includes the cost of treatment and medical examinations.

The cost of a medical evacuation is often tens of thousands of euros.

*August 2015 exchange rate

Practical information

Vaccination against yellow fever is necessary. Polio is also present in Nigeria. It is therefore recommended to ensure your vaccinations are up-to-date (diptheria, tetanus, polio). Vaccinations against hepatitis B, rabies, meningococcal meningitis, typhoid and MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) can be recommended based on the length of your trip. More information can be found on the NHS Fit for Travel website.

Malaria is present all year round, throughout the country. Read the recommendations on the NHS Fit for Travel website.

Ebola cases have been reported in Nigeria, which has since been officially declared free of the virus by the WHO in October 2014

Emergency numbers
Police 199
Ambulance 199
Fire service 190

It is advisable for expatriates to bring an ample supply of any prescription medication, as not all drugs are available in Nigeria. It is recommended to always use a recognised brand, as alternatives offered are not necessarily reliable. It is also important to be aware that fake medicines are also in circulation.

Useful sites
British High Commission in Abuja
British Deputy High Commission in Lagos (Consular and Visa sections)


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