Data from a report by the World Health Organization indicates that life expectancy in Africa is better than it was in 2000, in spite of many challenges experienced within the same period.
According to the World Health Statistics: Monitoring Health for the SDGs, while life expectancy improved globally by 5 years, Africa gained the most by 9.4 years between 2000 and 2015.
The improvement in the region was brought about by advances in fighting the AIDS epidemic. In the 1900s, AIDS led to a decrease in life expectancy on the continent, but improved access to treatment for the virus has aided in the turning around of the trend.
What’s more, the continent has benefited from the progress in malaria control and treatment. In their recent report on malaria, WHO announced that as many as six African nations could get rid of the disease by 2020. With malaria mortality rates falling by 66 percent across all age groups, the continent is set to kick the disease out in due time.
Developments in child survival in Africa have also played a key role in driving the life expectancy growth. Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) has been at the forefront in improving child and maternal health care. As a result, there are fewer women dying from pregnancy-related causes, and they have improved the well-being of mother and child. According to OAFLA, children who lost their mothers are less likely to celebrate their second birthday. As such, availing support for mothers during pregnancy aids in curbing deaths.
“Investing in women’s and children’s health is vital for sustainable economic and social development. Healthy women and children contribute to healthy economies, political stability and shared prosperity,” Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta emphasized at the AU’s Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa last November.
“The world has made great strides in reducing the needless suffering and premature deaths that arise from preventable and treatable diseases,” Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO said adding that the gains have been uneven but the agency will continue to support countries to move towards universal health based on strong primary care.
World Bank data also supports that life expectancy has improved in Africa based on the fact of the 37 countries that have seen a 10 percent increase in life expectancy, 30 are in the Africa.
Although Africa has recorded best growth trend in the period under review, it still is host to the world’s lowest life expectancy rates for both genders. According to the report, Sierra Leone has the world’s lowest life expectancy for both sexes: 50.8 years for women and 49.3 years for men. Chad, Angola, and the Central African Republic (C.A.R) all feature among the bottom five countries for life expectancy rates for both genders.
On the other hand, Algeria ranks as the best country with the best life expectancy rate in the region at 75.6. Cape Verde, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Seychelles also recorded best results with a life expectancy rates higher than the global average (71.4).
This year’s “World Health Statistics” brings together the most recent data on the health-related targets within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. The report highlights significant data gaps that will need to be filled in order to reliably track progress towards the health-related SDGs.
While, there is notable improvement, WHO said that more has to be done to address the risk factors that contribute to disease and unhealthy communities leading to early deaths. According to the agency, the following risk factors around the world today, must be taken into consideration in addressing the challenges in order to meet the health-related targets in the SDGs:
- billion people smoke tobacco;
- 156 million children under 5 are stunted, and 42 million children under 5 are overweight;
- 1.8 billion people drink contaminated water, and 946 million people defecate in the open; and
- 3.1 billion people rely primarily on polluting fuels for cooking.
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