South Africa


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

Major health problems among Peace Corps Volunteers in South Africa are rare and are often the result of a Volunteer’s not taking preventive measure to stay healthy. The most common health problems here are minor ones also found in the United States, such as colds, diarrhea, skin infections, headaches, sinus infections, dental problems, minor injuries, STDs, adjustment disorders, and emotional problems. These problems may be compounded by living in another culture.

Because malaria is endemic in parts of South Africa, you may be required to take antimalarial pills. You will also be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, meningitis, tetanus, typhoid, and rabies.

Monitoring mental health conditions is difficult at best. There are Alcoholics Anonymous facilities in the larger cities, but there are no support groups in rural areas. Alcohol is an integral part of many social interactions in South Africa, and you may be pressured to drink even if you choose not to, as there is little understanding of alcoholism. Long-term counseling is not offered to Volunteers. Short-term therapy (i.e., maximum of three sessions) may be offered if you have a specific issue.