Healthy life expectancy in Africa has increased by an average of ten years per person between 2000 and 2019, a greater increase than in any other region of the world during that period, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported today.
According to its 2022 Universal Health Coverage Tracking in the Africa Region report, healthy life expectancy (the number of years a person is in good health) increased to 56 years in 2019, compared to 46 of 2000.
Although still well below the global average of 64 years during the same period, global healthy life expectancy increased by only five years.RELATED
The increase in Africa was due to improvements in essential health services, advances in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, as well as progress in the fight against infectious diseases due to the rapid expansion of HIV control measures, the tuberculosis and malaria as of 2005.
On average, coverage of essential health services improved to 46% in 2019, compared to 24% in 2000.
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The most significant achievements were recorded in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, but this result was offset by the drastic increase in hypertension, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases and the lack of health services aimed at these conditions.
“The strong increase in healthy life expectancy over the last two decades is a testament to the region’s drive to improve the health and well-being of the population,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“But progress must not stall. Unless countries improve measures against the threat of cancer and other noncommunicable diseases, health gains could be jeopardized,” Moeti warned.
Progress in healthy life expectancy could also be undermined by the impact of the COVID pandemic unless robust recovery plans are in place.
The WHO confirmed that efforts have been made to restore essential services affected by the pandemic.
However, to improve these services and ensure that they are adequate, of good quality and accessible to all, it is essential that governments increase funding for public health.
Most governments in Africa fund less than 50% of their national health budgets, leading to large funding gaps, according to the WHO.
Only Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Gabon, Seychelles and South Africa finance more than 50% of their national health budgets.
“COVID has shown how investing in health is essential for the security of a country,” Moeti stressed, urging African governments to “invest in health and be prepared to deal with the next pathogen that comes our way.”
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