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Healthy Life Expectancy in Africa Grew 10 years in the Last Decade – WHO

Healthy Life Expectancy in Africa Grew 10 years in the Last Decade – WHO

Healthy life expectancy in Africa has grown by 10 years over the past decade, exceeding the global average and progress in any other region over that period, the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa office announced today.

Healthy life expectancy in the region “increased by almost 10 years to stand at 56 years in 2019, up from 46 years in 2000,” said WHO Africa Assistant Regional Director Lindiwe Makubalo, citing WHO’s new State of Health in Africa report.

The gain exceeds the overall healthy average life expectancy, which increased by five years during the same period, Lindiwe Makubalo said, attributing this increase to better essential health services, improved health service coverage, reproductive and maternal health, and health services to combat infectious diseases.

“We certainly have a lot to do and we seem to be ready to move forward together,” Lindiwe said, warning that life expectancy in the African region is still below the global average of 64 years.

“Unless countries strengthen and make greater investments in health systems development as well as implementing effective recovery plans, these gains in life expectancy could easily be lost,” he continued, warning that the covid-19 pandemic, which has had “greater disruptions” to essential health services in Africa compared to other regions, could also affect the continent’s healthy life expectancy estimates.

Health systems across the continent have been overwhelmed, particularly by the covid-19 pandemic, but also by other disease outbreaks such as monkey pox, cholera, and Lassa fever.

Countries such as Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation, are battling up to five of these outbreaks.

To improve health systems beyond pre-pandemic levels and achieve “quality, equitable and affordable services for all,” an important step would be to boost public health financing, Makubalo said, noting that only seven countries in the region fund more than half of their annual national health expenditures.

One example of countries making huge gains is Botswana, where universal health coverage is “the cornerstone of our development and our response or approach to health care delivery in the country,” according to Moses Kitele of Botswana’s Ministry of Health.

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“We have made some progress in achieving universal health coverage, particularly with respect to minimizing financial hardship,” Kitele said during the ‘online’ meeting, citing a recent WHO-funded study showing that less than 1% of households in Botswana face catastrophic health expenditures associated with healthcare.

A similar achievement could be replicated in other parts of the continent, Makubalo said.

The WHO’s State of Health in Africa report “gives us an opportunity to reflect on where we are and what progress has been made,” he added.

“We cannot be complacent, there is so much to do, especially in the post-Covid-19 period,” Makubalo said.

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