Pandemic Reduces Life Expectancy in Africa by 20 Years
December 18, 2003
The Independent (UK)
The full scale of the devastation wreaked on
Africa by the Aids epidemic was revealed in the World Health
Organisation's annual report yesterday. Life expectancy in
some African countries has fallen by 20 years in the past
decade, mainly due to the HIV/Aids crisis.
By Maxine Frith
19 December 2003
The full scale of the devastation wreaked on Africa by the
Aids epidemic was revealed in the World Health Organisation's
annual report yesterday.
Life expectancy in some African countries has fallen by 20
years in the past decade, mainly due to the HIV/Aids crisis.
Child and adult mortality rates in more than a dozen
sub-Saharan countries have increased in the past 10 years,
even as life expectancy in developed countries is improving.
The WHO report uses a simple comparison to highlight the
issue: a girl born in Britain today can expect to live to 80.6
years. A girl born in Sierra Leone is unlikely to make it past
her 36th birthday.
Jong-Wook Lee, director general of the WHO, said: "These
global health gaps are unacceptable. A world marked by such
inequities is in very serious trouble." Fourteen
countries in Africa now have higher child mortality rates than
they did in 1990, the WHO says. Average life expectancy in
Zambia, Zimbabwe and Angola is now under 40, a trend which the
WHO calls a "major public health concern".
It adds: "It is here [in Africa], where scores of
millions of people scrape a living from the dust of poverty,
that the price of being poor can be most starkly seen.
"Almost an entire continent is being left behind."
Life expectancy has fallen by 20 years in Botswana, Lesotho,
Swaziland and Zimbabwe - countries where up to a third of the
population is now HIV-positive. The life expectancy of
Russians has also fallen over the past 10 years, as their
country's health system has collapsed and the Aids epidemic
hit millions of people. A boy born in Russia today can expect
to live for just 58 years.
One in three people in developing countries now dies before
the age of 60, adding to economic deprivation, as a generation
has been in effect wiped out by Aids.
Only 5 per cent of people in the developing world who need
life-saving antiretroviral drugs for HIV receive them,
according to the report. In Africa, 5,000 adults and 1,000
children die every day as a result of HIV and Aids, while
around 30 million people on the continent are infected with
the virus. Aids is now the leading cause of death in adults
aged 15 to 59.
More than a third of children in Africa are at higher risk of
dying before they reach adulthood than 10 years ago. A woman
in Africa is 250 times more likely to die in childbirth than
someone in Britain.
Dr Lee added: "We need a clear set of priorities, a new
set of grand challenges. The next 12 months and beyond will be
an acid test of our collective moral commitment."