The Preventable Deaths
Lusaka – It is estimated that approximately, 16 million people die annually from communicable diseases and 45 percent of these deaths are of people below the age of 70.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) adds that 90 percent of these deaths occur in middle and low-income countries.
According to recent WHO estimates availed by Dr Eugene Nyarko in Botswana, most communicable disease-related deaths could have been prevented through better equipment and infrastructure.
WHO projects that over the next 10 years, non-communicable diseases’ deaths globally will increase by about 17 percent. Africa will bear the brunt of this, accounting for 27 percent of the increase, with the Eastern Mediterranean region accounting for 25 percent.
Dr Nyarko lamented that contraction of non-communicable diseases was detected very late in developing countries – and often too late to save lives.
“Many times the diseases work in combination. You often find somebody who has hypertension and diabetes at the same time, especially older people although the numbers are growing in younger adults,” he said.
Envoys from Southern Africa were recently at the United Nations HQ in New York to tackle these and related issues within the framework of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At a meeting on June 21, the Southern African envoys said – through their co-representative, Zambia – at the Open Working Group on SDGs that health was central to all dimensions of sustainable development.
Zimbabwe was the other regional co-representative.
“The SDG on health should go beyond the MDG and focus on quality of healthcare for all with increased technological transfer and implementation,” said Dr Mwaba Kasese-Bota, Zambia’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN.
Dr Kasese-Bota emphasised the need to improve infrastructure and standards of health service delivery.
“Our region believes that sustainable development will only be
attained if the nations know their population to allow effective
planning and meaningfully implement development,” Dr Kasese-Bota said.
“A well-planned population increase would have a positive impact on productivity, economic gains resulting in turn to more money going to health services and ultimately a decline in mortality.”
She said Africa had made progress with all health-related Millennium Development Goals but the reductions in infant and maternal mortality were “not enough” to reach the 2015 targets.
Dr Kasese-Bota noted that communicable and non-communicable diseases continue to be major burdens for Africa, with HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis being responsible for the majority of deaths.
“Maternal and Under Five rates continue to be the best indicators of health system performances. Our take is that they should still be part of the SDGs and be given more prominence,” said Dr Kasese-Bota.
Sustainable development refers to human development in which the use of resources and the environment meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.