The main causes of human death are no longer viruses, bacteria or microbes that have been in places for thousands of years. For the first time in modern human history, the world's largest killer is non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease or stroke. It applies to all regions of the world, including Africa. This shift is an unprecedented and unexpected success, writes Financial Times.
Infectious diseases are not the main cause of death in Africa since 2011. In 2015, diseases such as dysentery, pneumonia, malaria or tuberculosis on the African continent accounted for 44 percent of all deaths. This number is still high, in most parts of the world infectious diseases account for less than ten percent of the total number of deaths.
However, the rate at which the number of victims of infections in Africa falls is admirable. Over the last few decades, their numbers have fallen three to four times faster than in developed countries. Africa is going through an extraordinary rapid medical revolution.
In 1990, 25 percent of the total number of deaths in poor countries died in diseases such as diabetes or cancer. By 2040 this percentage would be 80 percent.
The increase in the number of non-communicable diseases is partly explained by the fact that people live long enough to develop the disease. Many people from poor countries still encounter such diseases later than people from developed countries. Heart disease, diabetes and other diseases, known as civilization diseases, actually become diseases of the poor.
According to the medical expert Thomas Bollyky, poor countries must face the consequences of their success. This is because these countries fight infectious diseases with medical help from the international community. In developed countries, it was not so. In US cities between 1900 and 1936, mortality decreased mainly due to water filtration and chlorination. Better hygiene, quarantine and education had positive effects before effective drugs occurred.
Bad countries achieve the same results faster, but often without the institutional changes that have gone through the cities of the developed world. Deaths among children have fallen. But the outcome is often sick adults who live without adequate health care or employment opportunities.
Poor states would therefore need to spend more money on the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases. African elites often ignore the problem and look for care abroad. But those who remain in these countries have at best very limited care.
Africa is urbanizing at an amazing pace, but cities are often unprepared and overwhelmed by sick people.
Reorientation of civilization diseases must be in Africa and foreign organizations. Cancer, upper respiratory disease, heart disease and diabetes account for 60 percent of deaths worldwide. However, only one percent of all aid to developing countries is spent on treatment for non-communicable diseases.
Poor states should also take action against pollution and tobacco products. African governments should oppose cigarette producers and other initiators of unhealthy lifestyles.