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More Kenyans visit clinics abroad for surgery to enhance beauty

By GRAHAM KAJILWA | 4 years ago

More than 120,000 Kenyans travelled abroad last year for cosmetic medical procedures intended to enhance their looks.

The figure is much higher than the average of 10,000 Kenyans that seek cancer treatment abroad each year.

As a pointer to the lengths to which the wealthy are determined to go to alter their physical appearance, data obtained from 119,870 Kenyan patients who travelled abroad in 2016 for treatment shows liposuction – a surgical procedure to reshape and re-position fat in the body - was the most sought after procedure overseas; mostly by women.

Hair transplants and fertility treatments ranked second and third respectively. This is according to data obtained from WhatClinic, a health company that connects patients across 135 countries to access more than 120,000 specialists overseas.

The report shines a spotlight on medical tourists driven by the desire to enhance their beauty. However, most pursue their goals in private unlike the public appeals common with patients suffering from chronic diseases like cancer, heart and kidney disease.


The desire to look beautiful against all odds is the top reason why people travel abroad for some of the most complicated and expensive specialised procedures.

Depending on the part of the body, liposuction costs up to Sh800,000 in the US (if it is on the abdomen) but not inclusive of non-surgical costs and if the patient is large or an anaesthesiologist is required - then the procedure can hit Sh2 million.

According to Consumer Insight, hair transplants are one of the fastest growing cosmetic treatments globally.

India, UK and South Africa are the most visited countries by Kenyans. Others are Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey and Germany.

Out of the top 10 procedures sought abroad, none happened to be for a chronic disease.

Other beauty enhancing procedures sought abroad are breast implants, skin lightening, dental implants, fat transfers, butt lifts, breast lifts and hip replacements.

"Ideally, these people are healthy individuals who just want an upgrade on how they look. In such a case, they do not need referrals by Kenyan specialists like those in need of renal or bone marrow transplants. Travelling abroad is just a personal decision," noted Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko.

Those seeking In-Vitro Fertilisation were patients interested in egg donation and artificial insemination.

South Africa was a popular destination due to a number of high quality clinics and ease of travel compared to other fertility destinations of choice.

"There are lots of reasons why people choose to travel for medical treatment. While cost savings can be one reason for travel, choice and quality can also be further influences. All surgeries carry risk, so you should make sure you are prepared for every eventuality," said Philip Boyle, head of Consumer Matters for WhatClinic.

In Kenya, such procedures have been linked to celebrities, with the most recent publicised case being socialite Vera Sidika, who claimed she spent Sh17 million on skin bleaching in the UK.

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