Tunisian public health sector struggles to heal itself

Tunis – Overcrowded hospitals, exhausted staff and disgruntled patients… Tunisia’s public health sector is struggling to heal its many maladies.

Hours of waiting for treatment, angry patients and broken equipment have become chronic problems.


Developing the health sector has been a key priority for Tunisian governments since the country gained independence from France in 1956.

Today, the North African country’s 11 million people are served by some 166 hospitals and 2 100 health centres, according to official figures.

But public health services have deteriorated since the 1990s and are failing to meet modern demand, according to a report last year by the health section of the powerful UGTT union.

“If there is one public service that needs urgent reform, it is the health sector,” it said, bemoaning “social inequality” in treatment.

The sector suffers from corruption, regional inequalities in access to advanced equipment and “medical deserts” – entire regions suffering a scarcity of healthcare professionals.

The UGTT study said Tunisia risked backtracking on the advances it has made since independence from France in 1956.