Sa'udi Arabia - Health



From 1990 through 1995, the government budgeted SR 63.9 billion for health and social services (of a total budget of SR 497.6 billion). Targets included improving immunization coverage and achieving better regional coverage of health care provision (which remains inadequate). The public health care system is supplemented by a small but generally excellent private health sector. It is the government's intention to provide integrated health services free of charge, or at a nominal fee, to all citizens. The government also hopes to establish a local manufacturer of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment and supplies. Health personnel in 1990 included 21,110 physicians (about 1.82 per 1,000), 1,967 dentists, and 48,066 nurses (about 3.8 per 1,000). In 1991, there were 1,811 pharmacists. As of 1999, there were an estimated 1.7 physicians and 2.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people.

Despite recent advances, Sa'udi Arabia still suffers from severe health problems. A major cause of disease is malnutrition, leading to widespread scurvy, rickets, night blindness, and anemia, as well as low resistance to tuberculosis. Immunization rates for 1995 for children up to one year old were tuberculosis, 93%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 97%; polio, 97%; and measles, 94%. As of 1999 the rates for DPT and measles were, respectively, 96% and 91%. Dysentery attacks all ages and classes and trachoma is common. A government campaign was successful in eradicating malaria. Typhoid is endemic, but acquired immunity prevents serious outbreaks of this disease. HIV prevalence in 1999 was 0.0 per 100 adults. There were 171 cases of AIDS reported in 1996. Sewage disposal and other health and sanitation facilities have been improved, but much still needs to be done. In 2000, 95% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 100% had adequate sanitation.

In 1960, life expectancy at birth was 43 years, but it averaged 73 years in 2000. During the same time period, infant mortality fell from 185 to 18 per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate stands considerably above those of middle-income countries. This fact may reflect the high infant death rate among the Bedouin, which has been estimated to account for about one-third of all infant deaths. The maternal mortality rate was 22 per 100,000 live births in 1998. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 37.2 and 5.9 per 1,000 people. Birth control was used by 21% of married women in 2000. In 1992, 97% of the population had access to health care services. As of 1999, total health care expenditure was estimated at 8% of GDP.

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