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
Malaria is hyper-endemic and is present throughout the whole country, throughout the year. It can be very dangerous if left untreated, so prevention and early recognition of infection are extremely important. To ensure you remain healthy and malaria-free you will be expected to consistently take mandatory malaria prophylaxis and consistently utilize recommended preventive measures (sleeping under your Peace Corps-issued bed net, using repellant). You will be provided with malaria prophylaxis medication as soon as you arrive in country, and for the entirety of your service with Peace Corps - you will be given information on the various options of malaria prophylaxis available to guide you in selecting the right malaria prophylaxis for you. You will also learn how to use a malaria rapid test kit, and how to start emergency malaria treatment since this may be necessary in the event that you do contract malaria and require medication.
Rabies is prevalent throughout the region, so you will receive a series of rabies immunizations during your training period.
Schistosomiasis, or bilharzia, is a parasitic infection that is contracted by swimming in infected water. Lake Malawi and most other bodies of water in the country harbor the parasite. Though the infection is common, you can prevent contracting this parasite by avoiding swimming in known contaminated water. Symptoms and signs of the infection may take some time to develop, so everyone will be presumptively treated at the end of service before returning home.
HIV has a high prevalence in Malawi. In 2017, the UNAIDS reported that 9.6% of individuals aged 15-49 years old living in Malawi had HIV infection. Although HIV is a manageable disease, prevention remains a mainstay of control efforts. Volunteers will be provided with extensive information outlining how to minimize their risks of HIV transmission, as well as other STIs which, if unaddressed, are a known risk factor for HIV transmission.
Many waterborne illnesses that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These illnesses include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, tapeworm, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in Malawi during pre-service training, and you will receive a water filter.