Childhood diseases remain major threats in Africa – report

Children in sub-Saharan Africa are now less likely to die from diarrhoea and pneumonia though the two are the most common causes of childhood sicknesses and deaths in most African countries.

This is according to a new report published on Wednesday by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) titled; “The Global Burden of Disease (GBD): Generating Evidence, Guiding Policy – Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Edition”.

The report said loss of health due to diarrheal diseases dropped 34 per cent between 1990 and 2010, lower respiratory infections (LRIs) such as pneumonia dropped 22 per cent, and protein-energy malnutrition was down 17 per cent.

Several countries documented progress, with Malawi reducing diarrheal diseases by 65 per cent, Burundi decreasing LRIs by 44 per cent, and Benin reducing measles by 84 per cent.

Malaria and HIV/AIDS were the leading causes of premature deaths and disability in 2010 for the region but in some countries, there has been significant progress in recent years.

Between 2000 and 2010, Rwanda recorded a 56 per cent decrease in the rate of healthy years of life lost from malaria, while Botswana cut the rate of premature deaths and disability from HIV/AIDS by 66 per cent.

“The rapid shifts in disease burden place poor people in low- and middle-income countries at high risk of not having access to appropriate services and incurring payments for health care that push them deeper into poverty,” said Timothy Evans, Director of Health, Nutrition, and Population at the World Bank Group.

“The data in these new reports are critical inputs to the efforts of policy-makers in countries towards universal health coverage that aim to improve the health of their people, communities, and economies,” he said.

The report also indicates that nutritional deficiencies were the leading cause for disability in childhood, mental and behavioral disorders accounted for most illness during adolescence and young adulthood, while musculoskeletal disorders were the largest drivers of disability in adulthood.

In the region’s upper and middle-income countries, non-communicable diseases emerged as a significant health threat.

From 1990 to 2010, substantial increases in premature mortality and disability were recorded from stroke (up by 31 percent), depression (up by 61 percent), diabetes (up by 88 percent), and ischemic heart disease (or coronary artery disease, up by 37 percent).

Amidst the region’s rapid economic growth, early death and illness from road injuries increased by 76 per cent between 1990 and 2010.

Health loss from interpersonal violence also climbed during this time, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Lesotho.

“The health landscape in sub-Saharan Africa is changing in unexpected ways,” said Dr Christopher Murray, IHME Director.

The report also identifies trends in leading risk factors that caused the most disability in the region.

Under-nutrition during childhood and household air pollution were among the leading factors behind premature death and disability. GNA

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