The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported on Monday that millions of newborn babies, children and mothers die each year in Africa from preventable diseases in spite of promises of better healthcare by governments and donor countries.
The WHO reported that because of AIDS and armed conflicts, the health situation in several countries has not improved in recent years and in fact has worsened in some cases. According to the WHO African countries accounted for 19 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of maternal mortality worldwide.
AdvertisementReferring to it as Africa's "silent epidemic", the WHO said in its African Regional Health Report that it has the highest death rate worldwide for babies up to a month old, around 43 per 1,000 live births or four times the rate in Europe.
Although the report highlighted some successes, such as Uganda's AIDS programme and Mali's community health centers, it mainly called attention to the health challenges facing the 46 countries belonging to its Africa region.
Louis Gomes Sambo, WHO's regional director for Africa said, "We know what the challenges are, and we know how to address them -- but we also recognise that Africa's fragile health systems represent an enormous barrier."
He added, "African governments and their partners must make a major commitment and invest more funds to strengthen health systems."
HIV/AIDS continued to devastate Africa, which has only 11 percent of the world's population but 60 percent of the people living with the HIV virus.
Statistics have shown that over 90 percent of the estimated 300-500 million malaria cases that occur worldwide, mainly children under 5, are in Africa.
In addition non-communicable chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, usually associated with the developed countries are also beginning to take its toll.
The report pointed out that only 58 percent of the people living in sub-Saharan Africa have access to safe drinking water.
The WHO however has given some cause to rejoice, while pointing out the almost complete eradication of river blindness and the adoption of the artemisinin-based combination therapy in 33 of the 42 countries most affected by malaria. In addition polio has been almost completely eradicated and measles deaths have declined more than 50 percent since 1999.