Home Health & Food Life expectancy in AfricLife expectancy in Africa rises by 10 years, says WHO a rises by 10 years, says WHO 

Life expectancy in AfricLife expectancy in Africa rises by 10 years, says WHO a rises by 10 years, says WHO 

by James Davies


Amarachi Okeh

The World Health Organisation assessment report has revealed that healthy life expectancy in Africa has increased by 10 years between the year 2000 and 2019.

This is as the health agency said this rise is greater in Africa than in any other region of the world during the same period.

The report by Tracking Universal Health Coverage in the WHO African Region 2022 shows that healthy life expectancy—or the number of years an individual is in a good state of health—increased to 56 years in 2019, compared with 46 in 2000.

This is still below the global average of 64, over the same period. 

The report, however, noted an improvement in overall health care services.

The report said improvements in the provision of essential health services, gains in reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health, and progress in the fight against infectious diseases — attributed to the rapid scale-up of HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria control measures from 2005 — helped to extend healthy life expectancy.

And on average, essential health service coverage improved to 46 per cent in 2019, compared with 24 per cent in 2000.

It was also noted that the most significant achievements were in preventing and treating infectious diseases, but this was cancelled by the dramatic rise in hypertension, diabetes, and other noncommunicable diseases and the lack of health services targeting these diseases.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said the sharp rise in healthy life expectancy during the past two decades is a testament to the region’s drive for improved health and well-being of the population.

“At its core, 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.

“But the progress must not stall. Unless countries enhance measures against the threat of cancer and other non-communicable diseases, the health gains could be jeopardised.”

But the report also said these gains could be affected by the pandemic.

The report partly reads, “Progress in healthy life expectancy could also be undermined by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic unless robust catch-up plans are instituted.

“On average, African countries reported greater disruptions across essential services compared with other regions. More than 90 per cent of the 36 countries responding to the 2021 WHO survey reported one or more disruptions to essential health services, with immunisation, neglected tropical diseases, and nutrition services suffering higher disruptions.

“Efforts have been made to restore essential services affected by the pandemic. However, to enhance health services and ensure they are adequate, of good quality and accessible to all, it is crucial for governments to step up public health financing.

“Most governments in Africa fund less than 50% of their national health budgets, resulting in large funding gaps. Only Algeria, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Eswatini, Gabon, Seychelles, and South Africa fund more than 50% of their national health budgets.”

The report also called on the national governments to reduce the catastrophic out-of-pocket expenditure by households.

According to the WHO, “health expenditure is considered not catastrophic when families spend less than 10% of their income on health expenditure, irrespective of their poverty level.”

The report recommended that “countries accelerate efforts to improve financial risk protection, rethink and repivot health service delivery with a focus on incorporating noncommunicable health services as part of essential health services, involving communities and engaging the private sector.

“It also recommends putting in place sub-national system monitoring systems so that countries are better able to capture early warning signs for health threats and system failures.”

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