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-CountryMajor health problems among Peace Corps Volunteers are rare and are often the result of a Volunteer not taking preventative measures to stay healthy. The most common health problems here are minor ones that are also found in the United States, such as colds, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, constipation, sinus infections, skin infections, headaches, dental problems, minor injuries, adjustment disorders, emotional problems, and alcohol abuse.
These problems may be more frequent or compounded by life in Sierra Leone because certain environmental factors here raise the risk and/or exacerbate the severity of illness and injuries. The most common major health concerns here are malaria, amoebic dysentery, giardia, schistosomiasis, lassa fever, dengue fever, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and HIV/AIDS.
Because malaria is endemic in Sierra Leone, Volunteers must take anti-malarial medication and use other recommended prevention strategies, including mosquito nets and insect repellent. Amoebic dysentery and giardia can be avoided by frequent hand washing, thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables, and treating your drinking water. Additionally, you can avoid contracting schistosomiasis by not swimming or bathing in freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers. The risk of lassa fever is low as Peace Corps does not place Volunteers in lassa fever-affected areas. Personal protection methods to prevent mosquito bites will lower the risk of dengue fever. Practicing abstinence or safer sex will protect against STDs and HIV.