The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that global life expectancy for both males and females has increased from 46 to 73 years, with the poorest countries showing the most progress. During an online media conference, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, highlighted the progress that has been made in improving global health over the past 75 years since the organization was founded.
“After years of war, the organization realized that it was better to work with one another than fight with one another. They debated and agreed what this organization would be and do in a document called the Constitution of the World Health Organisation,” said Dr Ghebreyesus. He also noted that the organization marked the 75th anniversary of the day this constitution came into force.
“Their vision was clear, but bold: the highest possible standard of health, for all people. To achieve that vision, they agreed to set up a new organization. The WHO’s constitution was the first document in history to formally recognize health as a human right,” he added.
According to Dr Ghebreyesus, the world has made significant progress towards realizing that vision. Smallpox has been eradicated and polio is on the brink of being eliminated. Additionally, 42 countries have eliminated malaria, while the epidemics of HIV and TB have been pushed back. “47 countries have eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease,” he said.
“In the past 20 years alone, smoking has fallen by a third, maternal mortality has fallen by a third and child mortality has halved. Just in the past five years, new vaccines for Ebola and malaria have been developed and licensed. And for the past three years, WHO has coordinated the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic – the most severe health crisis in a century.”
Dr Ghebreyesus acknowledged that these achievements were not the sole credit of the WHO, but the organization played a leading role in all of them. However, he also pointed out that despite these accomplishments, the world still faced many challenges, some old and some new.
“Around the world, people still face vast disparities in access to health services, between and within countries and communities. Since 2000, access to essential services has increased significantly, but at least half the world’s population still lacks access to one or more services like family planning, basic sanitation, or access to a health worker. Often it was because of where people live, their gender, their age or who they are, people living in poverty, refugees and migrants, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups,” he said.
“Meanwhile, since 2000, the number of people who experience financial hardship from out-of-pocket health spending has increased by a third, to almost two billion. Noncommunicable diseases now account for more than 70 per cent of all deaths globally. Rates of diabetes and obesity have increased dramatically, driven by unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. Progress against malaria and TB has stalled, antimicrobial resistance threatens to unwind a century of medical progress. Air pollution and climate change are jeopardizing the very habitability of our planet. And as COVID-19 has exposed so brutally, there remain serious gaps in the world’s defenses against epidemics and pandemics.”
“For all these reasons and more, the world needs WHO now more than ever,’’ he concluded.
Meanwhile the life expectancy in Nigeria has increased from 46.38 years in year 2000 to 55.75 years in year 2023, this is according to data obtained from macrotrends.com.