Farida Mahmud was plagued by dizzy spells and headaches for months during her fifth pregnancy. After several trips from her native Kankiya in northwestern Katsina State to see a doctor in the state capital, she was finally diagnosed with high blood pressure. She was in her late thirties.
When it was time for labour, Ms Mahmud’s blood pressure spiked and the doctors decided to induce her delivery. She delivered a baby girl safely but Ms Mahmud continued to bleed for several weeks until her death in February 2022. Doctors said she suffered Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH), one of the largest causes of maternal mortality in the world.
PPH and several diseases are taking a toll on the lives of Nigerians. It is among the reasons the country’s life expectancy is abysmal compared to its peers, according to Francis Faduyile, a pathologist at the Lagos State University College of Medicine.
Life expectancy is defined as the number of years that someone could be expected to live after they are born.
In Nigeria, life expectancy has climbed, but at a slower rate over the past 16 years, according to data from the National Population Commission (NPC). For men, the expected years of living is 54.9 in 2022 compared with 49.6 in 2006 (a difference of 5.3 years). For women, the average life expectancy at birth is 59.6 in 2022, an
increase from 53.8 years in 2006.
Also, large differences exist within the country, ranging from 60 years in parts of Southern Nigeria to 50 years in Northern Nigeria.
Mr Faduyile, a professor, said, “Nigeria has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world. And that means a lot of our women during childbirth are dying in large numbers and that also has a deep contribution to the life expectancy of Nigerians. Today, our life expectancy is very low and we have all these things as a contributing factor.”
Analysis of the NPC data shows that the number of years that a person can expect to live varies across the country. Men and women living in the South-west tend to live longer than people in other parts of the country, data shows.
For men, the average life expectancy at birth in the South-west is 58.2 years, followed by South-east (56.8 years), South-south (56.2 years), North-central (54.4 years), North-west (54.2 years), and North-east (50.8 years).
Meanwhile, for women, the expected years of living in the South-west is 62.5 years. In the South-east, women will possibly live for 61.2 years, South-south (60.5 years), North-central (59.9 years), North-west (58.6 years), and North-east (55.5 years).
This means that while the life expectancy for a man is estimated at 58.2 years in the South-west, it is 50.8 years in the North-east. In the same vein, the life expectancy of a woman in the South-west is 62.5 years while it is 55.5 years in the North-east.
Still, the NPC said, this latest data indicates some improvements in mortality conditions in the country during the last decade. However, the agency conceded that prevailing socio-economic factors may not facilitate rapid and continuous mortality decline in Nigeria.
Commenting on this report, Tunji Omotayo, a medical provider at the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital said the role of healthcare facilities and infrastructure is critical in determining life expectancy. He believes several deaths could be prevented with timely and effective health care, alongside preventative services.
“Looking at the healthcare delivery in a society like ours, it can be seen that healthcare facilities and poor infrastructure are also responsible for low life expectancy,” Mr Omotayo told PREMIUM TIMES.
“The more advanced a nation is, the better it will become in providing all these services. Relatively, in poor societies, access to health care facilities will also be compromised which in such a way also contributes to low life expectancy,” he added.
Mr Omotayo further explained that figures on healthcare delivery around the world clearly show that in poor nations, life expectancy is relatively short compared to more prosperous nations.
“It is a challenge to society at large which means, for us to achieve a better life expectancy, there is a need for institutions to create better healthcare delivery services and infrastructure.”
PREMIUM TIMES reported how for years Nigeria has failed to revitalise its health sector despite federal and state government promises. Most Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) in the country cannot provide essential healthcare services. The hospitals face problems including shortage of staff, poor water supply, poor power supply, inadequate equipment, and poor distribution of health workers.
Despite the obvious decay in the healthcare system in Nigeria, the government has barely done enough over the years and the situation has not improved, especially concerning effective funding and staff strength.
How states stand on life expectancy for men
None of Nigeria’s 35 states have a life expectancy above 60 years for men.
The quartet of Cross River, Ekiti, Imo, and Ogun states have the highest life expectancy at 59.6 years, followed by the trio of Ondo, Osun, and FCT at 58.4 years.
Meanwhile, the sextuples of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kebbi, Kwara, and Oyo all have a life expectancy of 57.3 years. The expected years of living in the quinary states – Delta, Edo, Lagos, Sokoto, and Zamfara – is 56.1 years.
In Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Katsina, and Niger, men are expected to live for 54.9 years. But in Benue, Kano, Nasarawa, Rivers, and Taraba, the estimated life expectancy for men is 53.7 years.
In Gombe and Kogi states, male life expectancy is 52.6 years. This is followed by the duo of Bauchi and Jigawa with 51.4 estimated years of living.
For men in Kaduna and Plateau, the life expectancy at birth is 50.2 years. NPC data shows that men in the far northern states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe’s average years of living is 49.1 years.
Life expectancy for women by states
Just like the data for men, Cross Rivers topped the states with the highest life expectancy for women, at 65.4 years. The trio of Ekiti, Ogun, and FCT, followed closely with 64.3 years.
The number of years that a woman can expect to live in Imo, Kwara, Ondo, and Osun is 63.1 years. Elsewhere in Abia, Bayelsa, Enugu, Kebbi, and Niger, the life expectancy for women is 61.9 years.
For women in Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, and Oyo states, the NPC report shows that the expected years of living for women is 60.8 years.
In the quinary states of Edo, Katsina, Lagos, Sokoto and Zamfara, life expectancy for women is 59.6 years. This was followed by the quadruple of Anambra, Benue, Delta, and Taraba where life expectancy is 58.4 years.
In Gombe, Kano, and Rivers, women can expect to live 57.3 years. However, data shows that the expected years of living for women in Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kaduna, and Kogi is 56.1 years.
Sitting afoot the log, Plateau women have 54.9 years of life expectancy, followed by Yobe 53.7 years, and Adamawa 51.4 years.
Nigeria lags behind African countries
Nigerian life expectancy is slipping down the global ranks, according to a UNICEF analysis, with the country performing poorly among African countries.
In Africa, Algeria had the highest life expectancy as of 2023. A newborn infant was expected to live 77.3 years in the country. Cabo Verde, Tunisia, Mauritius, Morocco, and Seychelles followed, with a life expectancy between 76.9 and 75 years.
On the other hand, Chad registered the lowest average, at nearly 53.7 years while Nigeria has 54 years.
Overall, the life expectancy in Africa was 63 years, according to UNICEF. The global children’s protection body said Africa’s life expectancy is 10 years lower than the global average (63 vs. 73 years). Large differences exist within the continent, ranging from 74 years in Northern Africa to 58 years in Western Africa, UNICEF added.
It, however, said life expectancy at birth in Africa is projected to increase over the next 30 years by seven years, reaching 70 years by 2050.
In many countries in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, children under age 5 still face a high risk of dying. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, as many as about 2.8 million children under age 5 died – 52 per cent of all under-five deaths. Sub-Saharan Africa, together with Central and Southern Asia (1.5 million), account for more than 80 per cent of the 5.3 million under-five deaths in 2018 – while they only account for 52 per cent of the global under-five population, UNICEF said.
Mr Omotayo, the pathologist, also noted that the economic situation of people inadvertently influences their way of living and life expectancy in this part of the world.
“The provision of work and resources for both immediate and extended family members is intricately tied to economic conditions. Higher economic prosperity facilitates better provision of healthcare needs for the family, positively impacting life expectancy,” he said.
“Poverty, as a consequence of low standards of living, poses challenges that diminish life expectancy significantly.”
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