Medical services in Namibia are of a very high standard. However, the availability of most services is restricted to the main towns. Emergencies and accidents occurring in remote areas do attract a high cost when transport to the main towns is required. Host establishments should be able to organize these services when requested.
There are no mandatory vaccinations for travelers from Europe. If you arrive from a country where yellow fever vaccinations are mandatory, proof of immunization is required. Take the usual precautions: ask your doctor whether you should renew your vaccinations against polio, diphtheria and tetanus. It also may be advisable to take precautions against Hepatitis A and B. Unfortunately there is no vaccination against malaria.
Malaria remains one of the most feared illnesses worldwide. In southern Africa malaria is second to HIV/AIDS in causing illness and death. In Namibia however, this applies primarily to the northern parts of the country, where protection often becomes too expensive. Tourists can protect themselves efficiently with a bit of planning and extra caution.
Malaria is transmitted through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito, which has previously bitten a person infected with malaria. If there are no mosquitoes, there is no malaria either. Since Namibia does not have much stagnant water the risk of contracting malaria is minimal in most parts of the country, or limited to a specific time of the year.
• High-risk areas are the river meadows in the north, northwest and northeast. If this is where you will travel, you are advised to take precautions year round.
• Kaokoveld, Etosha National Park, the Otavi Mountains and the east including Bushmanland are areas of medium risk. Precautions are strongly recommended during the rainy season (November to April).
• The risk is small in the area between Otjiwarongo and Windhoek. This does not mean, however, that you should not use mosquito repellent.
• The coast, the Namib Desert and the south are regarded as almost risk-free.
The characteristic symptoms of malaria are similar to those of diarrhea or flu: high fever with shivering fits, headache and aching limbs, severe sweating and dizziness. Malaria can certainly be treated if recognized early, but without treatment it can become life threatening. Incubation for the disease is four to six weeks. Should you experience cold-like symptoms during this period see a doctor immediately.
Although there is no vaccine against malaria, several prophylactic medicines are available, including homeopathic ones. In most European countries, malaria prophylaxis is available on prescription only, but in Namibia they’re sold over the counter and often costs less than overseas. Usually you need to start taking the tablets one week before you travel to a malaria area and continue for four weeks afterwards. Should you notice any of the symptoms despite taking prophylaxis, you should still see a doctor without delay. Some malaria tablets are known to cause nausea, illusions and upset stomachs, while others have little side effects albeit at a higher cost. With this in mind, many people discard the prophylaxis and rely on the most effective protection, which is avoiding mosquito bites altogether.
Tips for keeping mosquitoes at a distance.
• Always use repellent, especially in the evening, at night and in the morning. Effective repellents like 'Peaceful Sleep' and 'Tabard' are widely available in Namibia.
• At dusk and during the night wear light colored clothes that cover arms and legs.
• Use insect sprays or repellent incense sticks and spirals in your room. These are available in supermarkets and pharmacies.
• If you are in a high-risk area sleep under a mosquito net fixed above your bed .
• If you sleep in a tent, make sure that the flap and windows are fitted with mosquito gauze.
• If you need a mosquito net, purchase one. They are available at most NamPost branches and safari outfitters, and they are sold directly by 'Mossi Nets' in Otavi (P.O. Box 163, Otavi, Tel and Fax +264 (0) 67 234011, additional Fax 242899).
Other Health Concerns:
The quality of tap water is excellent in most places, although taste may vary. You might want to use bottled water for making coffee and tea. Water from the boreholes of farms and lodges usually has a wonderfully pure taste. Water from stagnant bodies, however, should always be boiled or treated with purifying tablets, such as Puritabs.
Snakes & Scorpions
Most visitors never see a snake or scorpion during their stay in Namibia. In any event, about 75% of Namibia’s snakes are not poisonous. Most snakes beat a hasty retreat when humans approach and therefore are never spotted. The lazy Puff Adder may become dangerous, as it is not able to disappear fast enough and you might unwittingly get too close. When walking in the ‘wilds’ you should always wear sturdy shoes, preferably covering the ankle. Watch your step and listen to sounds – snakes usually warn you before they attack. Refrain from picking up or turning pieces of rock, and do not put your hand into holes in the ground or into rock crevices, as these are favorite hiding places for snakes and scorpions. Always carry a torch in the dark. When camping, zip your tent completely and shake out your shoes before putting them on in the morning.
Stomach & Bowels
Stomach upsets are quite common when travelling internationally. Diarrhea is a reaction to unfamiliar bacteria in your intestines. Change in climate can also play a role. Make sure that you have a remedy for diarrhea in your first-aid kit. Fruits and vegetables as well as ice cream are mostly imported from South Africa. In general, fresh produce is sprayed and washed or otherwise pre-treated and can be enjoyed without hesitation. It’s recommended to avoid a high meat diet while travelling.
Bilharzia is transmitted by worms. They occur only in stagnant water in some places in the northeastern Kavango Region and in the Kwando-Linyanti-System.
Sleeping Sickness is transmitted by the Tsetse Fly, which resembles a horsefly. This sickness occasionally occurs in the Caprivi.
Rabies can be transmitted by all warm-blooded animals. Be careful if untamed wild animals (like ground squirrels) behave very friendly.
Tick Fever and Meningitis is transmitted by ticks. Visitors usually encounter them only when in close contact with cattle, game or dogs or when spending time in sandy riverbeds. Both illnesses occur very seldom.
Medicines & Pharmacies
Namibian pharmacies are more like a traditional chemist’s shop. The pharmacy section is usually limited to an area behind a counter in the back of the premises. Most pharmacists are available to give sound advice. Many types of medicines are available without prescription and cost less than in Europe or North America. Stock up on your supply of medicines in time, as only the larger towns have pharmacies. Some pharmacies have extended hours and some run emergency services. Pharmacies are listed in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory. Contact the local hospital in emergencies during weekends and after hours.
Doctors & Hospitals
Medical care in towns and cities is excellent, especially in the capital city, Windhoek. There are several private clinics, which maintain international standards. Most remote towns have a modest hospital or first-aid-clinic. All of them are listed on the first page of the local telephone directory under 'Emergency Services'. Doctor listings are located in the Orange Pages under 'Classified Medical Listings'. Alternatively, ask your accommodation establishment for recommendations. Since Namibia is scarcely populated and the distances between towns and villages are vast, bear in mind that in some places it may take the majority of a day to reach a doctor or a hospital.
Competent assistance by ambulance or ambulance plane is offered by
P.O. Box 31220, Windhoek
24 hour emergency service
Tel +264 - (0)61 - 23 05 05
Fax +264 - (0)61 – 24 81 13
Namibia’s Blood Transfusion Service only uses blood donations by unpaid volunteers. Donations are thoroughly tested for transmittable diseases, including HIV. Tests are carried out according to internationally recognized standard methods and are regularly submitted to strict quality controls.
It is advisable to carry foreign travel health insurance that includes coverage for repatriation. Such insurance is offered by tour operators and other organizations, such as credit card companies or automobile associations. When signing for insurance, ensure the costs for emergency flights within Namibia are covered, and preferably settled directly. Depending on the distance, the cost of air rescue service can easily amount to several thousand Namibia Dollars, which you may be required to settle immediately in cash or by credit card.
Foreign visitors can also take out travel insurance directly in Namibia. It covers air rescue within the country, and is valid three days beginning three days after signing for it.
For further details contact the following providers:
Tourism & WildLife Risk Consultants
Tel. +264 - (0)61 – 23 10 12
Fax. +264 - (0)61 – 23 14 08