Nearly 630 million years of healthy life were lost in Africa in 2015 due to the rampant diseases that afflict the population across 47 nations, according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) released on Wednesday.
Five countries in the WHO African Region accounted for almost 50 percent of the total years lost in healthy life: The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, and the United Republic of Tanzania.
Africa is the current focus in the WHO’s attempt to globally reach the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, which are laid out in the United Nations’ Transforming Our World Resolution.
A major barrier to Africa’s growth is the loss of productivity that results from widespread disease, and recently non-communicable diseases have overtaken infectious diseases as being the largest drain, accounting to the WHO’s report. The monetary loss form the region’s annual gross domestic product has reached more than $2.4 trillion.
In 2015, the United Nations reported that 1.6 million Africans died of malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV-related illnesses. Each of these diseases can be prevented or treated with proper and affordable access to medicines, vaccines, and general health services, but less than 2 percent of drugs consumed in Africa are actually produced in the continent. Imported drugs are typically unaffordable.
In Africa, the WHO reports that around 47 percent – or $796 billion – of lost productivity could be avoided in 2030 if the Sustainable Development Goals related to Africa’s health conditions were achieved in the region.
WHO Regional Director of Africa Matshidiso Moeti said that even though the world has been working towards achieving universal health coverage for four years, current average expenditure on health in Africa falls short.
In order to reach good health and well-being, countries in the WHO Africa region would need to spend, on average, at least $271 per capita per year on health, or 7.5 percent of the region’s gross domestic product, according to the report.
Africa has difficulty securing adequate fiscal space for health due to the unpredictability of public revenues, combined with mounting debt pressure, and though private financing sources have helped fill the gap, they are ultimately found insufficient and are not effective in extending service coverage, WHO said.
African states, along with other countries of the world, will have to drastically focus a massive amount of political and social will in order to achieve each of the SDGs by 2030, or even some semblance of self-contained, quality health care. Most importantly, the world will have to put front and center the populations it usually leaves behind in health financing, the report underscored.