On the whole, communities on the African continent have made greater strides in life expectancy than in any other region of the world, according to a new assessment report from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The life expectancy of Africans went up by an average 10 years per person between 2000 and 2019, and currently stands at 56 years. That’s still lower than the global average of 64 but higher than the 46 years recorded in 2000.
WHO officials attribute the improvement to improved maternal and reproductive care, advances in fighting infectious diseases including HIV, and better access to health services. On the other hand, Africans have seen a rise in hypertension, diabetes and other noncommunicable disease diagnoses.
“It means that more people are living healthier, longer lives, with fewer threats of infectious diseases and with better access to care and disease prevention services,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “But the progress must not stall. Unless countries enhance measures against the threat of cancer and other noncommunicable diseases, the health gains could be jeopardized.”
The continent’s 12 million cases of COVID-19 have disrupted health systems and services, but the pandemic also demonstrates how healthcare investment makes a difference. Most governments in Africa fund less than 50% of their national health budgets, WHO said. Only Algeria, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Eswatini, Gabon, Seychelles and South Africa fund more than 50% of their national health budgets.
“The better Africa can cope with pandemics and other health threats, the more our people and economies thrive,” Moeti said. “I urge governments to invest in health and be ready to tackle head on the next pathogen to come bearing down on us.”
Image: WHO file