In Africa you can live healthy up to the age of 56 – WHO report

dr  Matshidiso Moeti.  Image: Twitter

dr Matshidiso Moeti. Image: Twitter

  • The WHO says the life expectancy for a healthy life increased in Africa between 2000 and 2019.
  • Despite the significant improvement, Africa is still below the world average of 64 years.
  • Covid-19 could negatively impact the recent positive trend unless countries increase public health funding.

Life expectancy in Africa increased by an impressive 10 years between the turn of the century and 2019, according to a new assessment report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Healthy life expectancy is the number of years a person is in good health.

According to the report, it is possible to live in a healthy state in Africa for up to 56 years, compared to 46 years in 2000.

Although an improvement, the report says the 56-year mark is still below the global average of 64 years.

The positive development was due to the accelerated fight against malaria, HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

“Improvements in the delivery of basic health services, advances in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, and advances in controlling infectious diseases – thanks to the rapid expansion of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria control efforts from 2005 onwards – have helped maintain the healthy extend life expectancy,” the report said.

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Presenting the report, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa: “The sharp increase in healthy life expectancy over the past two decades is a testament to the Region’s commitment to improving the health and well-being of its population.

“At its core, this means more people are living healthier lives, living longer, are less at risk of infectious diseases, and have better access to care and disease prevention services.”

dr Lindiwe Makubalo, WHO Deputy Regional Director for Africa, stressed that progress must not be halted.

To do this, African countries should step up action against the threat of cancer and other non-communicable diseases.

The report traces Africa’s progress to 2019.

Declared a global pandemic in 2020, Covid-19 disrupted healthcare in many African countries.

More than 90% of the 36 countries participating in a 2021 WHO survey reported one or more disruptions to essential health services. Vaccinations, neglected tropical diseases and nutrition services were hit hardest.

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Since the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine, African countries have been trying to restore basic health services.

However, the WHO fears that the negative effects of Covid-19 and other future pandemics could reduce healthy life expectancy. So there is a need to invest in health services.

“Covid-19 has shown the importance of investing in health to keep a country safe. The better Africa can deal with pandemics and other health threats, the better our people and economies will thrive. I urge governments to invest in health and be ready to tackle the head – for the next pathogen that’s coming our way,” Moeti said.

The report concludes that high- and upper-middle-income countries tend to have better health care and longer healthy life expectancies at birth than lower-income countries, with about 10 additional years of healthy life expectancy.

In Africa, only Algeria, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Eswatini, Gabon, Seychelles and South Africa fund more than 50% of their national health budgets.


The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced by the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements contained therein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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