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Laboratory

Central Africa 

Central Africa 

Africa has a high disease burden with unacceptable mortality affecting women, children and others.

Disease in Africa

Diseases are some of the great equalizers in this world. Young, old, rich, poor; we all get sick. However, even though we are all susceptible to disease, the rates of disease change dramatically by nation.

 

Some of the world’s highest rates of diseases are found in Africa, particularly among children, and it’s not just because of the warm, humid climate. The highest rates are in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, where, according to the World Health Organization, almost 62% of deaths are a result of communicable diseases, nutritional problems, and perinatal/maternal issues. By comparison, the global rate of deaths from these causes is around 23%, and in North America it’s only 6%.

What this shows us is that most deaths in Africa are actually preventable. The cures or preventative measures exist, but they aren’t being applied due to poverty, warlordism, and other factors preventing public health. We only need to look at a few of the region’s top killers to understand what a real problem this is.

Malaria

One of the deadliest diseases in Africa, year after year, is malaria, a blood disease that humans contract from parasites within mosquitoes. Basically, the infected mosquito bites you, the parasites enters your bloodstream, and they destroy your red blood cells. Not pleasant. In 2015, there were about 212 million reported cases of malaria in the world, resulting in about 429,000 deaths. 90% of those cases, and 92% of those deaths, were in Africa. The highest rates of death were among children.

How It's Preventable

Like many diseases in Africa, malaria is both preventable and treatable. In fact, over in Central and South America (regions with a very similar climate to Africa), malaria deaths were reduced by nearly 80% between 2000 and 2014 thanks to simple measures. Targeted insecticide spraying to kill mosquito larvae and mosquito nets alone can drastically reduce infection rates. Rapid diagnosis and access to medicine to treat malaria symptoms can also be literal lifesavers. The problem is that in impoverished or war-torn areas, implementation of even the simplest tactics never occurs.

Diarrhea

In places like the United States, diarrhea is something associated with discomfort, sometimes extreme discomfort, but not death. The reality is that diarrheal diseases are the number one killer of children under five in the world. In fact, more people die from the malnutrition, dehydration, and overall breakdown of the body caused by diarrhea than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined. In Sub-Saharan Africa, roughly 644,000 people die from these symptoms every year.

How It's Preventable

Diarrheal diseases are generally caused by parasites that are found in unclean food or water. In fact, the Center for Disease Control estimates that roughly 88% of cases are caused by unclean water or poor hygienic conditions. The lack of water sanitation measures is a major problem in Africa, a region with some of the poorest access to clean water in the world.

Lower Respiratory Tract Infections

Another of the top killers in Africa are lower respiratory tract infections, notably pneumonia, influenza, bronchitis, and tuberculosis (TB). These viral or bacterial infections of the lungs were the number two cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa as recently as 2012, accounting for about 11.5% of total fatalities. TB (which is often counted separately) accounted for another 2.5%.

How It's Preventable

There’s a reason that mortality rates for pneumonia and tuberculosis are so low in places like the United States: medicine exists to successfully treat these diseases. Viruses like the flu can be prevented with vaccines, which again are often not made available or accessible to people in poorer parts of Africa. Improper or delayed diagnosing of diseases is also a problem, again mostly in areas that don’t have great access to high-quality health facilities.

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