Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive approach to disease. The Peace Corps will provide you with the necessary vaccinations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Each post maintains a health unit with a 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 basic medical supplies and a medical kit to treat mild illnesses and first aid needs, which can be restocked during service. 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!) The medical officer will order medications for you, and it may take several months for shipments to arrive.
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
The following are health concerns for Volunteers in Ghana:
- Waterborne disease: Unless your medical officer tells you otherwise, assume that only
boiled water or water that has been both filtered and treated with iodine or chlorine is
safe to drink. Very little of the water in Africa is potable, whether it comes out of the tap
or from the village well. Your medical officer will show you how to prepare water.
Food-related disease: Safe foods are those which are recently prepared, thoroughly
cooked, and not subsequently left out where flies can recontaminate the food. Uncooked
foods that cannot be peeled or soaked should be considered unsafe. In-country, your medical officer will show you how to prepare safe foods and
choose those that have already been cooked. Always wash your hands, especially before
- Diarrhea: From time to time during your Peace Corps experience, you will have diarrhea. If
you get diarrhea, be sure to drink a lot of fluids to avoid dehydration. Juice, broth, or
oral rehydration solutions (your medical officer will discuss this with you) are best.
As a general rule, it is better not to use any medication unless provided by the medical officer.
- Malaria: In malaria endemic areas, malaria prophylaxis is required. On arrival, each Volunteer meets with their Peace Corps Medical Officer to discuss choices of malaria prophylaxis and the risks and benefits of each. Each Volunteer can discuss their concerns with the Medical Officer, and then decide which medication they are most comfortable taking for effective malaria prevention. Throughout their service, Volunteers have ongoing discussions with their Peace Corps Medical Officer and have the opportunity to make adjustments to their malaria prophylaxis medication. In addition, the Medical Officer will recommend prevention strategies, including sleeping under permethrin-treated mosquito bed nets, use of insect repellent, and wearing long sleeves and pants.
- HIV/AIDS: HIV infection is very common in Africa. AIDS is a fatal disease. Peace Corps
Volunteers in Africa have become infected with HIV during Peace Corps service. Many
other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are far more common in Africa than in the
- Alcohol: Some of the local, national, and international beverages containing significant
amounts of alcohol are already known to you, but others will come as a surprise. These may be encountered during social events, festivals, and village
celebrations. Practices and tolerances vary widely. Know your limits, and if you choose
to drink, drink sensibly.
- Animals: The rabies virus is prevalent throughout Africa, and your chances of being
exposed to the virus through an animal bite are not remote. You will receive
a series of pre-exposure immunizations against rabies when you arrive in-country. If
you are exposed to an animal known or suspected of having rabies, inform your medical
officer at once so you can receive post-exposure booster shots. Be wary of all unknown
animals. In Ghana, Peace Corps Volunteers are permitted to have pets, acquired locally.
If you choose to have a pet, remember that this is a major responsibility. Any animals
you have must be immunized against rabies and other prevalent animal diseases in-country.