Considerable progress against infectious diseases has also contributed to longer life expectancy, WHO said, pointing to the rapid scale-up of HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria control measures from 2005.“People are living healthier, longer lives, with fewer threats of infectious diseases and with better access to care and disease prevention services,” said Dr. Moeti.
Healthier for longer
The World Health Organization announced the good news after examining life expectancy data among the 47 countries that make up the WHO African Region from 2000 to 2019, as part of a continent-wide report into progress on healthcare access for all – a key SDG target.
According to the UN agency’s report, Tracking Universal Health Coverage in the WHO African Region 2022, life-expectancy on the continent has increased to 56 years, compared with 46 at the turn of the century.
“But the progress must not stall. Unless countries enhance measures against the threat of cancer and other noncommunicable diseases, the health gains could be jeopardized.”
“This rise is greater than in any other region of the world during the same period,” the WHO said, before warning that the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could threaten “these huge gains”.
Benefits of tackling disease
In particular, the continent has benefited from better access to essential health services – up from 24 per cent in 2000 to 46 per cent in 2019 – along with gains in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health.
Ringfencing these precious health gains against the negative impact of COVID-19 – “and the next pathogen to come” – will be crucial, the WHO official insisted, as the UN agency noted that on average, African countries saw greater disruption across essential services, compared with other regions.
Households that spend more than 10 per cent of their income on health fall into the “catastrophic” category. Over the past 20 years, out-of-pocket expenditure has stagnated or increased in 15 African countries.
“While still well below the global average of 64, over the same period, global healthy life expectancy increased by only five years,” it explained.In total, more than 90 per cent of the 36 countries that responded to the 2021 WHO survey reported one or more disruptions to essential health services, with immunization, neglected tropical diseases and nutrition services most badly affected.