Poverty & Healthcare

The healthcare network

When Algeria gained its independence from France in 1962, there were only around 300 doctors across the whole country and no proper system of healthcare.

Over the next few decades, great progress was made in building up the health sector, with the training of doctors and the creation of many health facilities.

Today, Algeria has an established network of hospitals (including university hospitals), clinics, medical centres and small health units or dispensaries. While equipment and medicines may not always be the latest available, staffing levels are high and the country has one of the best healthcare systems in Africa.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Algeria had nearly 41,000 doctors and 66,000 nurses and midwives working in its health sector between 2000-2010.

Health spending

Health expenditure has been increasing in recent years, with the government spending over 10% of its overall budget on healthcare (WHO 2008).

Free medical care was introduced in the 1970s. This is now available to children and the elderly and those on low incomes.

The country’s healthcare network is in need of modernisation, new investment and improvements in organisation and administration. Services in rural and remote areas are also generally much poorer.

Rich and poor diseases

‘Poor country’ diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera still remain a high risk in Algeria. These diseases are easily caught in overcrowded conditions, where clean water and hygiene remain a problem. In 2009, 21,700 cases of tuberculosis were reported (WHO).

HIV/AIDS cases are very low in the country – only 0.1% of the adult population (17,000 adults) were living with HIV/AIDS in 2009 (UNAIDS).

Specialist treatment

In 2010, the government outlined a plan to invest over 28 billion dollars into improving sanitation and hygiene. More treatment centres focusing on cancer and maternity care will be created. And a greater number of ophthalmology centres are required; trachoma, which causes blindness if left untreated, has been a serious problem in the country.

With an influx of rural migrants into the towns and cities, a lack of housing has led to many Algerians living in crowded, poorly-constructed and unsanitary conditions. The percentage of the population with access to clean water is 83% (WHO 2008 data).

However, with oil bringing wealth to sections of society, illnesses common in rich countries, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, are growing. Currently, there are not enough hospitals which specialise in treating diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

Around 8% of the population is believed to suffer from diabetes and more children in Algeria are overweight than underweight.