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

Zambia is a very healthy country to live in, provided you use your common sense and pay particular attention to situations that could easily be prevented. Commonly encountered health problems here are colds, coughs, flu, strep throat, diarrhea, skin infections and fevers. Depending on your immunization history, you will receive immunizations against rabies, hepatitis A and B, meningococcal meningitis, and typhoid. One significant illness you could be exposed to is Plasmodium falciparum malaria. During pre-service training, you will be fully informed about its life cycle, the steps you need to take to prevent getting it, how to diagnose it, what to do for self-treatment, and when you should contact the medical officer. 

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. 

Nutrition is the cornerstone not only to a healthy body, but also to a healthy service. It is, therefore, imperative that you eat nutritionally. Throughout pre-service training, you will learn how to maintain a well-balanced diet. Once you get to your site, you will need to allow yourself the time for “hunting and gathering.” Changing your mindset from a fast food culture to one in which significant time and energy must be expended can be challenging. However, this can be done in ways that will allow you to also develop and secure your status as a respected and valued member of your community and village. Zambia currently has one of the highest incidences of HIV/AIDS in Africa. In a country with a population of 10 million, the Zambia Ministry of Health reports that an estimated 950,000 adults and 70,000 children are currently infected with the HIV virus. Approximately 16 percent of men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 are HIV positive. More than 75 percent of Zambian AIDS cases come from sexually active young adults and children under 5 who were infected by their mothers at birth. The country is experiencing an alarming rise in the number of children left orphaned because of AIDS. The effect of HIV/AIDS on Zambia is widespread, affecting not only the family structure, but also the country’s economy and education system. The disease will continue to adversely affect the country’s already low life expectancy. Your health in Zambia should not be an issue if you make sensible, healthy choices.