VOICE OF AMERICA
The World Health Organization (WHO) says Africans are living longer and healthier lives. But the WHO warns that millions on the continent still face the challenge of chronic diseases.
News of the improvement came at a conference in Dakar, Senegal, where WHO representatives met with officials from 47 African countries.
Healthy life expectancy on the continent — the number of years at peak health a person experiences — rose from 44.4 years at the turn of the century to 53.8 years in 2015. Overall life expectancy climbed from 50.8 years to 61.2.
Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said that two factors were mostly responsible for the change. “What produced this result is a huge increase in access to treatment [of] HIV-AIDS and in the better prevention and management of malaria,” Moeti said.
But the WHO says the type of disease that most commonly affects Africans also is changing.
Although the number of deaths from diarrheal disease, respiratory infections and HIV is falling, chronic conditions, such as cancer and heart disease, are claiming more lives.
Death rates from noncommunicable diseases have remained steady since 2000 while the other top 10 causes of mortality in Africa have fallen by 40 percent.
The WHO says health services in Africa must adapt to the new health challenges. Humphrey Karamagi, a WHO coordinator, says the health needs of African youth are too often overlooked. “The kind of health challenges that adolescents face are quite different from what we have been used to responding to — drug use, adolescent obesity and so on.”