Sunday , February 28 2021

FT: A quick medical revolution in Africa faces old issues

The main causes of death are viruses, bacteria or microbes that are already in the thousands of places. For the first time in modern human history, the major killers in the world are non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease or stroke. This applies to every region in the world, including Africa. This change is an unprecedented and unexpected success, writes The Financial Times.

Infectious diseases have not been the leading cause of death in Africa since 2011. In 2015, illness such as dysentery, pneumonia, malaria or tuberculosis in the African continent accounted for 44 per cent 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 deaths.

However, the speed at which the number of infection victims in Africa has fallen is astounding. Over the past decades, their number has dropped three to four times faster than in developed countries. Africa is experiencing an emergency rapid medical revolution.

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

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

According to medical expert Thomas Bollyky, poor countries need to deal with the consequences of their success. This is because these countries are fighting against communicable diseases through the help of the international community. This was not the case in the developed countries. In the US cities between 1900 and 1936, mortality was mainly due to water filtering and chlorination. Better hygiene, quarantine and education had a beneficial effect before effective drugs emerged.

Poor countries are getting the same results faster, but often without the institutional changes that have developed in cities in the developed world. The number of child deaths has fallen. But the result is too often a sick adult who lives without proper healthcare or employment opportunities.

Hence, poorer countries should spend more on preventing and treating non-communicable diseases. The African elites often overlook this problem and are looking for care abroad. However, those who stay in these countries, at best, have very limited healthcare.

Africa is urbanizing at an amazing pace, but cities are often not prepared and crowded by sick people.

The reorientation to civilization diseases must be in Africa and foreign organizations. Cancer, upper respiratory tract disease, heart disease and diabetes account for 60 percent of all deaths worldwide. However, only one percent of all aid to developing countries is spent on health care to treat non-communicable diseases.

Disadvantaged countries also have to deal with pollution and tobacco products. African governments should work with cigarette manufacturers and other unhealthy lifestyles.

FT: A quick medical revolution in Africa faces old issues

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