This is the VOA Special English Development Report.
In Senegal, some people receive medical
coverage from large employers. Some buy their own insurance. But most Senegalese
are uninsured, especially the poor -- a common story across Africa and
elsewhere. If they get injured or sick, they must somehow pay the costs themselves,
or go untreated.
lack of health insurance is greatest among workers who deal in the informal
cash economy. They include what Africans call "market women" -- women
who sell produce and other food at local markets.
But a women's cooperative
in Senegal is offering low-cost health insurance for market women. The coverage
is offered through a credit union, part of what is called the Network of
Programs for Urban and Rural Women.
than twenty thousand women now pay into the insurance program. It pays for care
at participating health centers. But it does not pay for conditions that
existed before a person was insured, or for cancer, heart disease or
Instead, the program is meant to help
poor families deal with common health needs without having to borrow money.
plan can insure as many as fifteen people in a family. Families can also get twenty-five
percent off the cost of medicines. And pregnant women can get low-cost care
through deals with several public hospitals and clinics.
Oulimatta Tigerre is an independent businesswoman. She
sells vegetables and dried fish at a small wooden stand on a dirt road near
Dakar, Senegal's capital. Her husband has been unemployed, and she worried that
they could not pay the family's medical bills. Then she joined the credit
union. The health insurance costs two dollars a month for her family of
got sick while she was pregnant. The program, she says, paid all her hospital
bills. And when her children get malaria, the insurance pays their bills. "This
program is very important," she says, "because it saves us from the
worry of where to get the money to pay the doctor."
Tigerre has used some of the money she saved from not having to pay hospital
bills to expand her business.
to have such satisfied members, experts say, a health insurance cooperative
needs a large group of people. This is known as pooling risk. If the group is
small, each member has to pay more, and that would exclude the poorest.
And that's the VOA Special English Development Report,
written by Jerilyn Watson, with Scott Stearns in Senegal. I'm Steve Ember.