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  • The WHO’s Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti speaks during the Africa Health Forum Wednesday, March 28, 2019.

    The WHO’s Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti speaks during the Africa Health Forum Wednesday, March 28, 2019. | Photo: World Health Organization

Published 28 March 2019

Since 2015, work sectors have lost an estimated 630 million years of "healthy life" from ailing employees, early death, and disability.

Across the continent, disease costs Africa nearly US$2.4 trillion every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report released during the Africa Health Forum Wednesday.

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Forty percent of the global loss of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) is due to the “astounding” rate of diseases, disability, and early death due to poor health in the workforce, said WHO’s Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said in her report, A Heavy Burden: The Productivity Cost of Illness in Africa.

"This report will help to establish a link between ill health and gross domestic products building upon a growing body of evidence, it presents country-specific data in terms of the loss in GDP for 2015 so that every country can see where they are and improve," she said.

Since 2015, work sectors have lost an estimated 630 million years of “healthy life,” the WHO said, adding that these figures will only increase if federal governments refuse to allocate funds into healthcare initiatives.

A large percentage of early deaths or common health concerns can be traced back to communicable and parasitic diseases, hazardous conditions, or poor neonatal care or nutrition.

“Four years into the implementation of countries’ efforts towards achieving United Health Coverage (UHC), current average expenditure on health in the Region falls short of this expectation,” said Moeti.

The WHO expert says that roughly 47 percent or US$796 billion in lost productivity value could be saved and returned to federal coffers by 2030 if the Sustainable Development Goals related to these health conditions are implemented across the continent.

“I think the message is very simple: it’s wasteful not to invest in health. Health is a good investment, and where countries are grappling with different strategies to grow GDP, it would be really unwise to ignore this fact,” Moeti said, noting that African countries will only need to spend an annual average of at least US$271 per capita or 7.5 percent of the regional GDP to meet the UHC requirements.

Dr. Jean Paul Adam, Minister of Health for Seychelles told the Telegraph, “This report shows that we’re under-investing in terms of health as a continent.

“While we can talk to the private sector about plugging some of the gaps, basic primary care is the responsibility of governments and we must invest from the outset,” Adam said.

WHO Health Economist Grace Kabaniha said state investments into healthcare is a “small price to pay” for positive, continental turnover.


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