Moving to Nigeria? Congratulations! This nation is home to Africa's biggest economy, and it’s one of the continent's most unique places to live. There’s such an exciting mix of cultures that travelling around Nigeria can feel like hopping from country to country. In fact, there are more than 500 languages spoken and around 250 different ethnicities here!

Nigeria is often called the ‘Giant of Africa’, thanks to its growing economy and the presence of big multinationals operating in sectors such as oil and mining. This attracts a number of expats who choose to live in Nigeria for the commercial opportunities.

Before you get started on a move to Nigeria though, you should get better acquainted with the country’s healthcare system. Like many African nations, Nigeria's healthcare comes with its share of difficulties. In this article, we’re going to break down the issues surrounding Nigeria’s healthcare system, explaining everything you’ll need to know.

If you’re already completely set on the move and want to find health insurance, we can help. Just check out our list of recommended healthcare providers.

From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Nigerian healthcare: key statistics

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    Average life expectancy
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    % GDP spent on healthcare
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    % of Nigerians without health insurance

How does Nigeria's healthcare system work?

Nigeria, like many countries in the world, has pledged to roll out universal healthcare (UHC) by 2030. Right now though, the country's healthcare system can best be described as a mix of poorly funded public options and a slightly better-funded private healthcare system.

A good deal of Nigeria's healthcare is provided by private outlets, commonly clinics or small privately owned hospitals. There is a sort of UHC in place to help the poorest citizens, but it's underfunded to the point of barely functioning.

There's also a small contingent of so-called faith healers, who make up approximately one percent of Nigeria's healthcare landscape. It should be said though, that progress has been made in combining qualified healthcare professionals with faith healers. Efforts like this help alleviate mistrust for legitimate healthcare providers.


Is healthcare free in Nigeria?

According to the World Health Organisation, 77% of Nigerians pay for their healthcare out of pocket. In a country where most people barely make $1.90 a day, this is an obvious problem. The Nigerian government is on board with UHC, but not enough to really force the issue.

A huge problem is that with each successive government, there seems to be less motivation to push for greater healthcare reforms. It’s been argued that ordinary Nigerians also aren’t pushing hard enough, but at the end of the day it’s the responsibility of the government to care for its people.

Nigerian man in a field used for agriculture

A Nigerian farmer stands in his field

Quality of healthcare in Nigeria

The quality of healthcare in Nigeria is disorganised at best, and downright terrible at worst. Very little is being done by the government to provide Nigerian citizens with access to essential healthcare.

As such, many Nigerians find themselves either having to pay for their healthcare themselves, or go without. Unfortunately, the latter is a real problem in the country at the moment.

Poor data collection is also a major hurdle to understanding the country’s healthcare landscape, because it makes tracking the nation’s health status much harder. Far too many patients get misdiagnosed, as any records of their health that do exist are often outdated.

Blood bank data is limited too, as are registries of medical equipment. The latter presents a dangerous scenario – a hospital needing a piece of equipment would have no idea where to track it down. Inevitably, poor data collection results in avoidable deaths amongst Nigerians.

Nigeria also suffers from some of the world’s highest maternal death rates, accounting for 19 percent of all maternal deaths worldwide. Infant mortality is depressingly high as well, with children under five dying at a rate of 128 per 1,000.

Nigeria sits in 144th place globally in the healthcare access and quality report, showing that much more needs to be done to improve its healthcare system. With just 3.75% of its GDP spent on healthcare (approximately £3 per person), any improvement to Nigeria’s healthcare system will be slow.


Quality of private healthcare in Nigeria

Private healthcare, whilst better than whatever public options exist, is still nowhere near the standard it should be. You can still get medicine and some essential care though. Contraceptives can be bought at clinics and hospitalisation is available for more serious conditions.

Unfortunately, treatment in a private hospital is still out of reach for the majority of Nigerians.

The overall quality of private healthcare in Nigeria suffers because of numerous factors, including:

  • Poor pay for doctors and nurses, causing a ‘brain drain’ to hospitals in Europe
  • Regular strikes from doctors and nurses requesting better pay and healthcare investment
  • Government corruption siphoning resources meant for healthcare
Highrise view of Lagos, Nigeria's capital city

Home to 15.3 million people, Lagos is Nigeria's largest city

Healthcare in Nigeria for foreigners

The generally poor quality of healthcare in Nigeria extends to foreigners living in the country. There is the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which in principle was supposed to offer some sort of universal health coverage for all, including foreigners. However, the reality is that access to free and good healthcare for everyone in Nigeria is limited.

Public healthcare is woefully inadequate, and though public hospitals can provide treatment for basic ailments, it’s almost always better to receive treatment abroad. This is because hospitals are often overcrowded and unhygienic.

The result is that infectious diseases spread freely, with far too many Nigerians dying from diseases caught in hospital (cholera, tetanus, and even polio are common).

Because of this, most expats living in Nigeria choose to get private health insurance. This way, expats can rest easy knowing they’re covered in case of an unfortunate event.

If you want to join them, check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Do I need health insurance in Nigeria?

For those working and living in Nigeria who can afford it, private health insurance is almost always the best option.

As such, we will always recommend opting for a comprehensive healthcare plan. This way, you and any family you might move to Nigeria with can rest easy knowing you’re covered if the worst happens.

Benefits of private medical cover in Nigeria

Having private medical cover in Nigeria means you don’t need to worry about excessive costs incurred by hospital stays, or an emergency medical evacuation.

Because Nigeria’s healthcare system is generally poor, most expats living there choose to receive medical treatment abroad. With proper healthcare coverage, you’ll be covered for emergency medical evacuation if needed.

And if you do need to be evacuated, having private medical insurance will make sure that you’re covered financially wherever you go for treatment.

How much does health insurance cost in Nigeria?

When moving to a new country, one of the biggest concerns many expats worry about is the cost of medical insurance. These costs can differ a lot depending on whether or not you’re moving with family, too.

For individuals moving to Nigeria, health insurance covering inpatient, outpatient, maternal dental care will likely cost between $500-$1,000 per month. This estimate is based on worldwide cover for a 45-year-old male living in Nigeria, including cover for trips to the US.

The exact amount depends on the level of coverage required (removing dental coverage reduces the monthly payments, for example), and how much you're willing to pay as deductible.

For families moving to Nigeria, a comprehensive healthcare insurance plan will set you back roughly $800-$2,600 per month. Again, this depends on what care you and your family need, as well as the deductibles you’re willing to pay.

Regardless, moving to Nigeria without health insurance could end up costing you a great deal more than the monthly payments. Because of this, we will always recommend getting health insurance before your move.

Advice for expats moving to Nigeria

Before you move to Nigeria, we advise planning out your health insurance as soon as possible. You’ll be sorted for your healthcare needs, meaning you can concentrate fully on the rest of the move.

Just check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.