Poverty & Healthcare

Services in the city versus the countryside

The healthcare system in Senegal operates through city and regional hospitals, district health centres and health posts.

Reaching health clinics

The condition of rural roads, particularly in the rainy season, makes it hard for people to reach medical centres. Therefore rural people often rely on local healers and traditional medicines.


A good level of medical treatment is generally available in the capital, with many of the country’s doctors working in Dakar. However, rural areas suffer from a shortage of medical personnel.

The health workers and midwives who staff the country’s health posts often have to cope with a shortage of equipment.

A decentralised system of healthcare


Thanks mainly to state education and treatment programmes, HIV/AIDS infection rates are low at less than 1% of the population, with around 59,000 people living with the disease in 2009.

The government of Senegal spends nearly 12% of its budget on healthcare. This spending has funded national initiatives to combat malaria and AIDS, as well as an immunisation programme for under-fives and family planning/reproduction services.

Despite these programmes, nearly one child in 11 dies before the age of five in Senegal. Due to widespread poverty, many children suffer from malnutrition. This makes it much harder for them to recover from illnesses such as respiratory infections and malaria.

More than 220,000 malaria cases were reported in 2009 by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is the leading cause of death by infectious disease, though other diseases such as schistosomiasis, typhoid and yellow fever are also common. With more than 11,000 cases in 2009, tuberculosis is on the rise again.

Cost and coverage of healthcare

While vaccinations and treatments for certain diseases (such as malaria and HIV/AIDS) are provided free, other types of medical care and any stays in hospital have to be paid for.

Helping themselves

In some regions, communities in Senegal have started local health insurance schemes to provide full medical coverage.

Generally, healthcare planning and services are the responsibility of individual districts, which receive the majority of their funding from central government (with sizeable donations from international organisations).

With differences in how district councils choose to implement healthcare spending, the priorities and efficiency of services vary from region to region.