Health and Welfare

Health and Welfare

Health and nutritional conditions are remarkably good, approaching those of a developed country. The favorable projections of life expectancy are attributable in large degree to a salubrious climate, an absence of infectious diseases commonly associated with the tropics (such as malaria, yellow fever, sleeping sickness, and cholera), and the availability of free medical and hospital services to all Seychellois.

The National Medical Service operated by the Ministry of Health provides free medical treatment to all citizens. The principal medical institution is the 421-bed Victoria Hospital, which has medical, surgical, psychiatric, pediatric, and maternity departments. Five other hospitals and clinics have a combined 113 beds in general wards, and a psychiatric hospital has sixty beds. In addition, a total of twenty-five outpatient clinics exist on Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue. Most of the fortyeight doctors and ten dentists come from overseas; few Seychellois who go abroad for training return to practice medicine.

Improvements in prenatal and postnatal care since the late 1970s have brought the infant mortality rate down from more than fifty per 1,000 live births in 1978, to an estimated 11.7 in 1994, a rate comparable to that of Western Europe. Some 90 percent of protein in the diet is derived from fish, which, along with lentils, rice, and fruits, gives most families access to a reasonably nutritious diet. Nevertheless, many prevailing health problems, especially among children, result from poverty, limited education, poor housing, polluted water, and unbalanced diets.

Local threats to health include intestinal parasites such as hookworm and tapeworm. Venereal diseases are widespread, and local programs to contain their spread have been described as ineffective. Dengue fever epidemics--although not fatal--have periodically struck large segments of the population, causing severe discomfort and unpleasant aftereffects. Alcoholism is a serious problem, and narcotic use--mainly of marijuana and heroin--is beginning to appear among the young. In late November 1992, the Ministry of Health confirmed the first case of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); a year previously the ministry had announced that twenty people tested positively for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Under the social security law, employers and employees contribute to a national pension program that gives retirees a modest pension. Self-employed persons contribute by paying 15 percent of gross earnings. The government also has a program to provide low-cost housing, housing loans, and building plots, although the program is said to reflect favoritism on behalf of SPPF supporters.

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