Each post maintains a health unit with at least one full-time medical officer who handles Volunteers’ primary health-care needs, including evaluation and treatment of most medical conditions. Upon your arrival in-country, you will receive a country-specific health handbook. During pre-service training, the health unit will provide you with a medical kit with basic medical supplies to treat mild illnesses and first aid needs. During this time, you must provide your own prescription medications and any other specific medical supplies you need. (Bring a three-month supply of your prescriptions!). Your prescription medications will be ordered for you during pre-service training, and it may take several months for shipments to arrive. After training the medical officers will provide the prescription medications you take during service. Your medical kit can be restocked anytime during service.
During service, the medical officers are available to answer your questions, and you may always feel free to contact them by phone, text message, email, or in person if you feel you have a physical, emotional, or other problem that relates to your health or well-being. You will have physicals at mid-service and at the end of your service, and can be seen by your medical officer on an as-needed basis. Additional medical care is available at local hospitals. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer will consult with the Office of Health Services in Washington, D.C., or a regional medical officer. If you cannot receive the care you need in-country, you will be transported to a Peace Corps-approved regional medical facility or the U.S. Read more about the Peace Corps’ approach to health.
Health Issues In-Country
Minor illnesses are a possibility in Ecuador, but if you take the proper precautions you can expect to have a healthy and safe two years. If you become seriously ill, however, Ecuador has some of the best hospitals and specialists in South America. Diarrheal illness is the biggest health problem for Volunteers around the world, including Ecuador. This problem can be prevented with proper food and water preparation, which will be discussed during pre-service training. Altitude varies greatly among Ecuador’s four geographical zones, and Quito is 9,300 feet above sea level.
Problems common in the first few days at a high altitude are headaches, indigestion, and shortness of breath. Malaria is a serious health threat in the coastal and jungle areas of Ecuador. In addition to using insect repellent and mosquito nets (provided by Peace Corps), Volunteers assigned to these areas are required to take malaria prophylaxis to prevent malaria. Peace Corps service can be a stressful experience, and you may need to put all your positive coping skills to work. The Peace Corps medical officers are available to help you with your emotional needs and can refer you to English-speaking counselors. Peace Corps/Ecuador also has a Volunteer peer support network.