Turkmenistan Table of Contents
Despite the nominally universal availability of free health care, in the rural areas medical care often is deplorable by Western standards. In both rural and urban areas, undertrained physicians and staff, underequipped facilities, shortages of medicines and supplies, and chronic sanitation problems contribute to the system's inadequacy. For example, one study found that because 70 percent of the obstetricians and gynecologists in Dashhowuz Province lacked adequate surgical training, half of their patients died. A factor in the high mortality rate is the provision of piped-in water to only 15 percent of maternity clinics in the republic. Because of the disruption of trade at the end of the Soviet period, pharmaceuticals must be obtained with hard currency, making them even more scarce than before. Of particular concern are shortages of oral rehydration salts for children, syringes and needles, and vaccines, which previously had been imported from Russia and Finland. According to experts, current conditions of conventional medical care may prompt many Turkmen to turn once again to "traditional" medicine. Healers employing herbs and prayer are common, and in some rural areas this type of treatment may be the only medical attention that is available.
Data as of March 1996