AFRICA – New data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are increasingly becoming the main cause of mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, where the diseases were responsible for 37% of deaths in 2019, rising from 24% in 2000.

The health organization said the rising NCD threat was due to weaknesses in the implementation of critical integrated control measures at the country level led by governments including prevention, diagnosis and care.

The organization has called for decisive action from African governments to address the risk factors for noncommunicable diseases since the diseases are preventable and highly cost-effective.

In Africa, between 50% and 88% of deaths in seven countries particularly small island nations are due to noncommunicable diseases,” according to the 2022 WHO Noncommunicable Disease Progress Monitor.

The report further revealed that the diseases claimed between 100,000 and 450,000 lives annually in seven other countries with Africa’s largest population.

Noncommunicable diseases also known as chronic diseases are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioral factors such as harmful use of alcohol and tobacco, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, raised blood pressure to name a few.

The main types of NCD are cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma as well as diabetes.

WHO reports that cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths where 17.9 million people die annually, followed by 9.3 million cancer fatalities, 4.1 million deaths from respiratory diseases and 1.5 million people succumb to diabetes.

WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti disclosed that premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases are rising among people younger than 70 years while noting that the growing burden of NCDs poses a grave threat to the health and lives of millions of people in Africa.

The rising burden of noncommunicable diseases will exert pressure on treatment and care services for instance the number of people living with diabetes in Africa is expected to reach 47 million by 2045 up from 19 million in 2019,” she explained.

Consequently, WHO is providing technical expertise to countries to devise and implement strategies to reduce the preventable and avoidable burden of morbidity, mortality and disability due to noncommunicable diseases.

It has also developed a set of practical and cost-effective measures that countries can deliver at the primary health level to ensure access to health services at the primary level to boost early detection, screening and treatment.

The significant measures include increasing tobacco taxes, restricting alcohol advertising, reformulating food products with less salt, sugar and fat, vaccinating girls against cervical cancer as well as treating hypertension and diabetes.

Additionally, high-level heads of state and health leaders are meeting on 12th April 2022 in Ghana to find ways of accelerating progress against noncommunicable diseases and reducing mortality from noncommunicable diseases by 30% by 2030.

The meeting will also agree on ways to speed up the efforts to achieving the key targets of universal health coverage that include access to quality, safe, effective and affordable health care.

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