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Why so Young? Why some African Populations have a short Lifespan?

Here we examine the reasons for low life expectancy.


  1. Low Availability of clean water. As high as 45% of the people in Sub Saharan Africa had no access to clean water supply. As there is no alternative source, many of the poor collect drinking water from rivers, streams & canals polluted with human excreta & chemicals.  The health & economic costs associated with waters are enormous. Millions of cases of diarrhoea, diseases, cholera, typhoid & hookworm are reported every year & in most cases are answered by death due to low accessibility to healthcare


  1. Lack of food and malnutrition seems to be one of the major factors contributing to low life expectancy. There is a strong imbalance in terms population growth rate against the growth rate of food.  There are still millions of death because of hunger or malnutrition, especially among children.  The amount of food which is wasted in certain countries, could feed and prolong life in others.  This is where there should be no argument over the re-distribution of wealth.  There is only so much food a middle income person, a millionaire or a billionaire can eat.  Every person who has been blessed with much, should be donating or organising something to ensure others can survive and thrive.


  1. There is either a shortage of fertile land for growing crops, or there is not enough know-how to make best use of the more pliable land. Farmers in the West tend to have the technology to squeeze more crop out of a small space. To worsen the situation, the infrequency of rain in many parts of Africa causing droughts and existing water supply is insufficient for irrigation.


  1. Food Aid or Aid in general is mis-managed. Although there is food aid, it does not always get to where it is most needed. Very much of it falls into the hand of politicians or unscrupulous traders, who disproportionately distribute it to their cronies or sell it in black market which undercut local prices. Thus local farmers lose out.  There are  innovative ways to reach people being devised.  It is most likely entrepreneurs and charities who will find better ways; as most governments – as long as their belly is full, do not care.  It must be noted that even in the UK, there are food banks which exist to provide food for people who cannot feed their families.  The same facilities exist in America and other so called rich countries.  Hungry people are not a unique Africa or Asia.


  1. Many of the African countries are classified as HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) where they owe huge sum of money to IMF & World Bank. As such most of the tax receipts & other revenues are spent repaying these international organisations, leaving not much for them to develop local economy. Besides, they are also under the SAP (Structural Adjustment Programs), which required recipient countries to undergo fiscal austerity so that they have monies to pay back those debts.  So for those who may want to borrow funds to improve their countries, it is a high hill to climb.


  1. Lack of Funds. There are not enough funds for large scale hospital or clinic building; or if there is, it is not prioritised. Therefore access to healthcare for the majority of the population, remains a great difficulty. It is either too far away, or people cannot afford medical bills. Even if hospitals are available, machineries & surgery equipments are often obsolete, break down & small in numbers. This explains why life expectancy is low even in places where clinics and hospitals exist.  There are just not enough.


  1. International health experts are warning of a mounting health crisis in parts of Africa because of an influx of Counterfeit Medicine from Asia that is playing havoc with the treatment of diseases such as malaria. Porous borders in Africa coupled with indifferent oversight in China are combining to turn the continent and its pressing health problems into a free-for-all for maverick manufacturers, some of whom are producing pills with no active ingredients at all.  According to the Guardian newspaper of December 2012, precise data is hard to track down because of the informal nature of African health systems. But several recent studies warn that as many as one-third of malaria drugs in Uganda and Tanzania are fake or substandard, with most believed to originate in China or India. Poor-quality antimalarial drugs lead to drug resistance and inadequate treatment, which pose an urgent threat to vulnerable populations and jeopardise progress and investments in combating diseases such as malaria. Studies in 2012 Of 1437 samples of drugs in five classes from seven countries in southeast Asia, 497 (35%) failed chemical analysis, 423 (46%) of 919 failed packaging analysis, and 450 (36%) of 1260 were classified as falsified.


  1. There is a brain drain away from Africa. Educated people, including nurses and doctors find it more lucrative to work in Europe or America.  According to the Guardian Newspaper of February 2015, countries like Uganda are being crippled by medical brain drain.  Hospital management often apologise for the delay of salaries for medical staff. Delayed or insufficient salaries are a frequent occurence Africa’s public hospitals. Medical workers in rural areas can wait for as long as three months without pay. Accommodation or transport costs are a rarity.  Private clinics and health centres in other countries capitalise on this to poach physicians and specialists from public hospitals. Robert Ssentongo, a senior plastic surgeon at Mulago hospital, paints a grim picture of how the brain drain has constrained Uganda’s healthcare system. “Three-quarters of the people I graduated with 20 years ago are not in Uganda. They are all working in western countries.  The consequences in Uganda are clear: the doctor to patient ratio was estimated at 1:24,725 in 2013, with a nurse to patient ratio of 1:11,000. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends one physician per 1,000 people.


  1. In some places the rate HIV or Aids is very high, where one out of every 5 adults is infected by the deadly disease. It is also closely tied to low level of awareness among the adults, which clearly can come only if one has pursued sufficient level education. The practice of unsafe sex and young people being force into prostitution due to poverty are the 2 largest contributors.  Africa had suffered badly but the increasing availability of antiretroviral therapy has reduced the spread of the epidemic, and the mortality due to HIV/AIDS has been decreasing since about 2005


  1. Low level of education. There is a strong correlation between level of education & healthcare. People who are more educated, tend to have higher awareness regarding their personal & surrounding hygiene. Unfortunately, enrolment rate to even primary schools have dropped in many parts of Africa. As parents are not educated, so as their children


  1. Corruption is still an issue.  Much income is derived from Mineral Resources which could be used to invest into better health care systems.  Mismanagement or lack of know-how hurts the countries majority poor.  Unfortunately, there are corrupt government officials. Some of the Financial Aid given by international communities or charities does not reach those most needy. A portion (formerly the bulk) of it can be siphoned to individual accounts for building up wealth abroad, or be misused for pursuing political agendas & campaign.  Even huge charities who raise billions, use most of it to support their own infrastructure.  This is thankfully – decreasing over time.  Nigeria has implemented the Looters List.  Zimbabwe are actively trying to find the missing $15 billion from its diamond industry.   But corruption is not just from African leaders and politicians.  It is also from Western Countries who pay miniscule amounts for raw materials, knowing they can get 10,000 per cent profit on the open market. It is those fat cat Corporations who know they are paying far more to Australia, or Canada for the same raw materials, but will not redress the balance in Africa, because it will hurt their bottom line.  Corruption is demonstrated by Western banks who continue to accept funds from questionable sources. It is demonstrated by France who continues to bleed it’s francophone countries of 40% of their reserves.


  1. Wars, Terrorism and Inter-tribal conflicts cause depletion in the population. This is demonstrated by the high death rate in the Central African Republic and Afghanistan. War also lead to famine, as food supplies or providers become restricted, leading to less food. If you can’t feed people, there immune system is lowered and  they will eventually die a pre-mature death.


  1. Chemicals added to Food cause Cancer and other illnesses. The High amount of pesticides or preservatives used on crops by farmers. Produce such as beans are rejected for import in the UK for instance, because they contain 10 times the allowable amount of pesticide residue than is permitted in the food chain.

15.  No Money – No Treatment

You can look on some youtube videos, which show gleaming hospitals in some African countries, with smiling doctors, nurses and patients.  What they do not tell you is that it all very expensive, and 90% of the population will never enter to those hospitals.  If you as a patient are not rich, you are unlikely to end up smiling on the beds.  Obtaining health insurance helps massively, but that assumes you have a good job or business that will pay for it, and even then the insurance will not cover certain major operations or treatments.  Also the expertise needed for a disease, may not be present in the country, or there is a long waiting time.   Many of the super-rich (including politicians) travel abroad to India or Singapore for treatment as they feel they are more likely to survive.  So the ordinary person just accepts that when they are sick, they probably won’t survive.

16.  Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease affecting humans and other animals caused by parasitic protozoans

Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, tiredness, vomiting, and headaches. In severe cases it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, or death. Symptoms usually begin ten to fifteen days after being bitten. If not properly treated, people may have recurrences of the disease months later.

The largest killer of children in Africa is Malaria.  It kills one child every 30 seconds, about 3000 children every day. Over one million people die from malaria each year, mostly children under five years of age, with 90 per cent of malaria cases occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Not everyone dies.  An estimated 300-600 million people suffer from malaria each year. More than 40 percent of the world’s population lives in malaria-risk areas. Malaria is particularly damaging to pregnant women and their unborn children. It can result in maternal anaemia and low birth weight – the single greatest risk factor for death during the first months of life.

Malaria is a barrier to development. Malaria hampers children’s schooling and social development. Many children who survive a serious attack of malaria develop physical and mental impairment.

Malaria is a major cause of poverty. The cost of malaria control and treatment drains African economies, slowing economic growth by about 1.3 per cent a year. Its prevention is an important part of poverty reduction and economic development.