Africa loses more than $2.4 trillion every year due to its disease burden

Michael Otieno, a pharmacist, dispenses anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs at the Mater Hospital in Kenya's capital Nairobi
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the continent loses more than $2.4 trillion from its gross domestic product value due to its disease burden every year.
  • The report titled ‘A Heavy Burden: The Productivity Cost of Illness in Africa’ was launched last week at the second WHO Africa Health Forum in Cape Verde.
  • The report comes in the wake of disasters and natural calamities which have shaken Africa’s fragile health systems across the continent in recent years showing just how helpless the continent can be in the face of disaster.

Africa is currently riddled with a huge disease burden which every year gulps millions of resources and claims thousands of young and old lives, according to a newly released report by the UN health agency.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the continent loses more than $2.4 trillion from its gross domestic product value due to its disease burden every year. That is equivalent to having lost 630 million years of life in 2015.

The report titled ‘A Heavy Burden: The Productivity Cost of Illness in Africa’ was launched last week at the second WHO Africa Health Forum in Cape Verde.

The report notes that the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and South Africa accounted for almost half of the total years lost in healthy life.

Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death and lost productivity and account for 37 per cent of Africa's disease burden, overtaking infectious diseases.

The report comes in the wake of disasters and natural calamities which have shaken Africa’s fragile health systems across the continent in recent years showing just how helpless the continent can be in the face of disaster.

DR Congo is still grappling with Ebola and the death toll stands at 621, Mozambique is not out of danger either and after surviving Cyclone Idai which has killed more than 1,000 people, the country is now faced with a new danger in the form of a cholera outbreak.

That coupled with continued neglect by African governments to fund the hailing health sector has pushed the few remaining health practitioners to the wall forcing them to down their tools in alarming frequency, continue to injure any efforts to diagnose and treat ‘Mama Africa’.

Interruption of vaccination exercises whenever doctors down their tools is all too common and at the end of the day falling sick in Africa may soon be equal to a death sentence.

The agency notes that about 47 per cent or $796 billion could be spared by 2030 if African countries put their heads and hearts into achieving the Sustainable Development Goals relating to health such as SDG 3 on good health and wellbeing, SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation, among others.

To date, no East African country has met the Abuja Declaration target of spending at least 15 per cent of its GDP on health close to 20 years later.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, expressed concern that African patients are not adhering to doctors prescription to the letter.

Four years into the implementation of countries’ efforts towards achieving UHC, current average expenditure on health in the region falls short of this expectation,” she says in the report.

Amidst all these deaths and misery, however, all is not lost and there is a sign of hope and a few African countries may just make it to recovery even if ‘Mama Africa’ succumbs to her illness.

The land of a thousand hills, Rwanda, is one such patient. The country is on course, spending 7.5 per cent of its GDP on health, followed by Uganda at 7.2 per cent, Kenya at 6 per cent and Tanzania at 5.6 per cent.

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: news@pulselive.co.ke