According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Africa’s healthy life expectancy progressed from 2000 to 2019.
The Associated Press reported that the region “rose by almost 10 years to stand at 56 years in 2019 compared with 46 years in the year 2000,” Dr. Lindiwe Makubalo, assistant regional director for WHO Africa, said.
During the online briefing on Aug. 4. the gains were attributed to better health services, improved maternal care and proactive work against infectious diseases.
Despite the progress, leaders say health issues persist as millions in the horn of Africa are experiencing an unprecedented food crisis.
Over 80 million people in the seven countries spanning the region – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda – are food insecure.
In addition, upwards of 37.5 million people are classified as being in IPC phase 3, a stage of crisis where people have to sell their possessions to feed themselves and their families and malnutrition is rife.
Driven by conflict, changes in climate and the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO said this region has become a hunger hotspot with disastrous consequences for the health and lives of its people.
In response to the devastation, WHO announced on Aug. 2, the launching of a $123.7 million funding appeal.
The funds will go towards urgent measures to protect lives, including beefing up the capacity of countries to detect and respond to disease outbreaks, procuring and ensuring the supply of life-saving medicines and equipment, identifying and filling gaps in health care provisions and providing treatment to sick and severely malnourished children.
“Hunger is a direct threat to the health and survival of millions of people in the greater Horn of Africa but it also weakens the body’s defenses and opens the door to disease,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said.
“WHO is looking to the international community to support our work on the ground responding to this dual threat, providing treatment for malnourished people and defending them against infectious diseases.”
With the upcoming rainy season expected to fail, the health agency said the situation is worsening.
There are already reports of avoidable deaths among children and women in childbirth. In addition, the risk of trauma and injuries is high as violence, including gender-based violence, is rising.
There are measles outbreaks in six of the seven countries mentioned above against low vaccination coverage.
Countries are simultaneously fighting cholera and meningitis outbreaks as hygiene conditions have deteriorated, with clean water becoming scarce and people leaving home on foot to find food, water and pasture for their animals, according to WHO.
WHO said it has already released $16.5 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to ensure people have access to health services, treat sick children with severe malnutrition and prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.
“Ensuring people have enough to eat is central. Ensuring that they have safe water is central. But in situations like these, access to basic health services is also central,” Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said.
“Services like therapeutic feeding programmes, primary health care, immunization, safe deliveries and mother and child services can be the difference between life and death for those caught up in these awful circumstances.”