Medical facilities in Malawi are rudimentary and do not meet U.S. standards of medical care. While all health workers have some degree of English proficiency, communication can still be difficult. Medications are not consistently available and many American medications are not available at all. Travelers should bring adequate quantities of medications to last the duration of their stay. For any major medical problems travelers should consider obtaining medical treatment in South Africa, where advanced medical care is available.
Diarrhea and food borne illness is a common problem among travelers. Travelers are urged to avoid tap water, ice cubes, raw fruits and vegetables. Bottled water is recommended for drinking and food preparation. Only food that is well cooked and served hot should be consumed.
Malaria is a potentially life-threatening disorder that is endemic to Malawi. Malaria prophylaxis is strongly advised and should be initiated prior to arriving in Malawi. Visitors should consult their physicians to learn which prophylaxis would suit them best and review possible side-effects. In addition, other personal protective measures such as the use of insect repellents help to reduce the risk of malaria. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one-year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what anti-malarial medications they have been taking.
Schistosomiasis (also known as Bilharzia) is present in most lakes and rivers in Malawi, including Lake Malawi. The Department of State recommends against swimming, wading or bathing in fresh water.
HIV infection is endemic in the Malawian population. Travelers are advised to take appropriate precautions to limit the risk of transmission through blood or sexual contact. Tuberculosis is prevalent as well. Caution should be exercised if visiting crowded settings for prolonged periods of time, especially public hospitals and prisons.
Other health risks include typhoid, hepatitis A and B, tetanus, and rabies. Vaccination for these diseases is advised. Additionally, travelers should be aware that trypanosmiasis (African Sleeping Sickness) is present in some game parks and that cholera outbreaks are often reported.
Important Note: Although this information is distributed by the American Embassy in Malawi as a courtesy to American citizens and other private individuals, this list is not to be interpreted as an endorsement or official recommendation of the American Embassy. It is only a partial listing of the locally available health services. It is the personal responsibility of each individual utilizing local health care services to personally establish a relationship with the desired medical resources and to make a personal evaluation of each facility’s or practitioner’s competency.
Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas. All medical services in Malawi are paid for in cash. Individuals should get a receipt for any services and submit the receipt to their insurance company for reimbursement.
Since medical facilities are rudimentary in most parts of Malawi, travelers are strongly advised to have Medical evacuation insurance. The U.S. Government/Embassy cannot provide/fund medical evacuations for U.S. Citizens. Several private organizations will provide medical information and insurance for overseas travelers. Most charge a fee for this service. The following is provided for informational purposes only and in no way constitutes an endorsement, expressed or implied, by the Department of State. Here are potential sources for medical evacuation: Medevac contacts list (PDF 69 KB)
List of Doctors