Saturday , June 12 2021

FT: The rapid medical revolution in Africa is facing old challenges



The main causes of human death are no longer viruses, bacteria and microbes that have been in places for thousands of years. For the first time in modern human history, the world's largest killers are non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease or stroke. Applies to all regions of the world, including Africa. This change is an unprecedented and unexpected success, writes the Financial Times.

Infectious diseases are not the main cause of death in Africa since 2011. In 2015, diseases such as dysentery, pneumonia, malaria or tuberculosis on the African continent accounted for 44 percent of all deaths. This number is still high, in most parts of the world infectious diseases are responsible for less than ten percent of the total number of deaths.

However, the rate at which the number of victims of infection in Africa is declining is admirable. Over the past few decades, their numbers have fallen three to four times faster than in developed countries. Africa is undergoing an extraordinary, rapid medical revolution.

In 1990, 25 percent of the total number of deaths died in poor countries in diseases such as diabetes or cancer. In 2040, this proportion would be 80 percent.

The increase in non-communicable diseases is partly explained by the fact that people live long enough to develop the disease. Many people from poor countries still experience such diseases at a later age than people from developed countries. Diseases of the heart, diabetes and other diseases, known as civilization diseases, are in fact becoming diseases of the poor.

According to medical expert Thomas Bollyky, poor countries have to face the consequences of their success. This is because these countries fight infectious diseases thanks to medical assistance from the international community. In developed countries this was not the case. In US cities in the years 1900-1936, mortality decreased mainly due to filtration of water and chlorination. Better hygiene, quarantine and education have beneficial effects before the emergence of effective drugs.

Poor countries achieve the same results faster but often without institutional changes that have gone through cities in developed countries. Deaths among children have fallen. But the result is too often sick adults who live without proper health care or employment opportunities.

That is why poor countries would have to spend more money on prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases. African elites often ignore the problem and look for care abroad. However, people in these countries only have very limited health care.

Africa is urbanizing at an amazing pace, but cities are often unprepared and overcrowded by the sick.

Reorientation of civilization diseases must take place in Africa and foreign organizations. Cancer, upper respiratory tract illness, heart disease and diabetes account for 60 percent of deaths worldwide. However, only one percent of all aid for developing countries is allocated to health care for the treatment of non-communicable diseases.

Poor countries should also take action against pollution and tobacco products. African governments should jointly oppose cigarette manufacturers and other propagators of an unhealthy lifestyle.

FT: The rapid medical revolution in Africa is facing old challenges

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