Life expectancy has risen in Africa from 50.9 years in 2012 to 53.8 years in 2015, according to a new report released by the United Nations World Health Organisation.
However Thursday’s report, released during the 68th session of the WHO regional committee in Dakar, also says that national health systems must be improved to ensure that services get to the people who need them most.
Deaths resulting from the ten biggest health risks in Africa – such as lower respiratory infections, HIV and diarrhoeal diseases – dropped by half between 2000 and 2015, partly as a result of specialised health programmes.
At the same time, the report warns that the achievement in longer life expectancy can only be sustained and expanded if health services are significantly improved, and states that the performance of health systems in the region – measured by access to services, quality of care, community demand for services and resilience to outbreaks – is low.
Chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer need to be tackled, with a person aged 30 to 70 in the region having a one in five chance of dying from a noncommunicable disease.
And two critical age groups – adolescents and the elderly – are being under-served, with surveys indicating a complete lack of elder care in a third of African countries.