In 1974, a free national health care system was implemented to give Algerians better access to medicine and to hospital and out-patient care. Ten years later, the government created a new system that emphasized disease prevention. However, recent political upheavals and economic problems have left the health care sector without sufficient resources to serve the entire population. People in rural areas often have difficulty getting medical help, and even in the cities many people must wait for treatment.

Algeria has a relatively young and rapidly growing population. About 60% of Algerians are under 20 years of age. Families of six to ten children are common. Family planning has been introduced. Maternal and infant protection centres have been established to provide advice and dispense contraceptives. A major effort was made to make family planning part of religious practice so that it would have a wider impact. The program emphasized birth spacing rather than birth control.

Algeria's health problems include illnesses brought on by poverty, such as malnutrition and tuberculosis. Trachoma affects many people in North African countries. It is a viral infection of the eyelids that may lead to scratching of the eyeball and eventually blindness. The virus is carried by flies.

Because the formal health care system is overburdened, many people turn to alternative forms of medicine. Practitioners treat patients with herbal cures, or recommend exercises, special baths or massage. Traditional Islamic medicine is called unani. It is based on principles developed by the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.). Unan is the Arabic word for "Greek." Throughout the Arab world, there is renewed interest in the traditional health care practices of unani..

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Although few Algerian women pursue professional careers, there are many women physicians in the country. Many Arab women prefer to go to a woman doctor, since according to tradition, Arab women must remain veiled in the presence of men who are not family members.