Africans life expectancy up by 9.4 years in last decade – WHO

Africa has overcome the setback posed by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDs, epidemic in the 1990s with latest World Health Organisation (WHO) report revealing that the continent’s life expectancy between 2000 and 2015, increased to 60 years, gaining 9.4 years.

The WHO 2016 report, published on Thursday, titled “World Health Statistics: Monitoring Health for the sustainable development goals, SDGs”, noted the dramatic improvement in life expectancy globally since 2000.

The report covered data gathered from 194 countries on a range of issues, including mortality rate, disease and health system indicators, life expectancy, illness and death from key diseases, health services and treatments, financial investment in health, and risk factors and behaviours affect the health of the people.

Although the report noted that life expectancy increased by five years between 2000 and 2015, it said the fastest increase was recorded since the 1960s.

The increases in the last five years, the report pointed out, reversed declines in the 1990s, which saw life expectancy in Africa taking a significant dive as a result of the AIDS epidemic.

“The increase was greatest in the African region, by 9.4 years to 60 years,” the report said, attributing the progress to, mainly, improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control and expanded access to anti-retroviral for treatment of HIV.

The report, which contains the most recent data on the health-related targets within the SDGs adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, said global life expectancy for children born in 2015 stands at 71.4 years, with 73.8 years for females and 69.1 years for males.

New-borns in 29 countries high-income countries, the report noted, have an average life expectancy of 80 years or more, while new-borns in 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, have life expectancy of less than 60 years.

With an average lifespan of 86.8 years, the report said Japanese women could look forward to living the longest, with those from Swiss men stand a better chance of enjoying the longest average survival at 81.3 years.

Sierra Leoneans were identified as having the world’s lowest life-expectancy rate for both sexes: 50.8 years for women and 49.3 years for men.

There were no new statistics on Nigeria’s life expectancy rate, apart from the 2013 figures of 54 and 55 years for male and female respectively.

Healthy life expectancy, a measure of the number of years of good health that a new-born in 2015 can expect, stands at 63.1 years globally (64.6 years for females and 61.5 years for males).

While the Millennium Development Goals focused on a narrow set of disease-specific health targets for 2015, the SDGs broadened its scope to 2030 to achieve universal health coverage for healthy living and promote well-being for at all ages.

The report however point out that many countries, especially in the African and eastern Mediterranean regions, were still far from universal health coverage measured by an index of access to 16 essential services.

Besides, indications are that 303, 000 women die every year due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth, while 5.9 million children die before their fifth birthday and two million people are newly infected with HIV.

Other details of the report showed that there were 9.6 million new cases of tuberculosis and 214 million malaria cases, with 1.7 billion people in need of treatment for neglected tropical diseases.

It also added that no fewer than 10 million people die before the age of 70 due to cardiovascular diseases and cancer, while 800 000 people commit suicide, and 1.25 million people die from road traffic injuries.

Director-General of WHO, Margaret Chan, said the world made great strides in reducing the needless suffering and premature deaths that arise from preventable and treatable diseases, although the gains have been uneven.

“Supporting countries to move towards universal health coverage based on strong primary care is the best thing we can do to make sure no-one is left behind,” she said.

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