Healthy life expectancy among Africans living in mainly high and upper-middle-income countries on the continent has increased by almost 10 years, the UN health agency, WHO, said on Thursday.

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 on progress on healthcare access for all – a key SDG target.

“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”.

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.

“While still well below the global average of 64, over the same period, global healthy life expectancy increased by only five years,” it explained.

The continent’s health ministries should be credited for their “drive” to improve health and wellbeing among populations, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

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.

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