Do not come expecting to get sick. Likewise, you should not do away with all caution and just expect God to take care of you. We feel that God gave us brains for a reason and one should take reasonable precautions. Except for an occasional bout of diarrhea or malaria, most of our volunteers stay healthy.
In most instances satisfactory medical care is available in Ghana, and your hosts will be able to help you if you develop a medical problem. Medical care in government hospitals varies from time to time, depending upon the doctor(s) located there. There are a large number of very capable Ghanaian doctors who run private clinics (note that this applies only to whatever time you spend in the cities; while you are in Nalerigu you would be cared for by the missionary doctors).
Bring with you a supply of any medication you usually take. See What to Bring
The most frequent health problem encountered by our missionaries is malaria and volunteers are certainly not immune to it (although most of our visitors do not develop malaria). This is parasitic infection caused by the bite of the Anopheles mosquito, which has its highest level of activity from dusk to dawn (but can be seen any hour of the day). The symptoms of malaria vary from case to case but most often one will experience a flu-like illness with fatigue, generalized aches and pains, headache, and diminished appetite; sometimes nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, and perhaps fever and/or chills.
As volunteers, you should take prophylactic medication for the prevention of malaria beginning at least two weeks before you arrive. The most common prophylactic regimens include either atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone) or doxycycline (Vibramycin).
It is important that you consult your regular physician and/or IMB volunteer section for further advice about when to begin malaria prophylaxis as doctors have differing opinions about this. They will be able to advise you of the proper dose of the medication you choose.
In addition to chemical prophylaxis, it is practical to employ other measures of malaria prevention. It is strongly recommended that you use an insect repellent before going out at dusk or later. The most effective repellent available is DEET and current recommendations are that you use a repellent containing a DEET concentration of 20-35%. Before purchasing a large supply, test what you choose to be certain that it won’t cause a skin reaction.
Other measures include reducing your exposure to mosquitoes by avoiding outdoor activities when mosquitoes are most active or by wearing long-sleeved clothing and trousers while outdoors at those times (light-colored clothing seems to be least attractive to mosquitoes). Remember the adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” when you are planning your malaria prophylaxis.
Unless instructed otherwise, never drink any water, anywhere, unless it is bottled or you drink it in a missionary’s home so that you know it has been filtered. You can catch several types of bacterial or parasitic diseases, some quite severe or fatal, from unclean water; the least of these is intestinal upset associated with diarrhea that can be very uncomfortable or debilitating.
There are very few places in Ghana where tap water is safe. In most instances, water for drinking or food preparation should be filtered or boiled.
Consider bringing with you a water bottle to keep water with you at the hospital or out in the village. There are no drinking fountains at the hospital.