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FT: The rapid medical revolution in Africa is facing old challenges


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 biggest killers are non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease or stroke. It refers to every region in the world, including Africa. This change is an unprecedented and unexpected success, writes the Financial Times.

Infectious diseases are not the leading cause of death in Africa since 2011. In 2015, diseases such as dysentery, pneumonia, malaria or tuberculosis in the African continent accounted for 44% of all deaths. This number is still high, in most parts of the world, infectious diseases are responsible for less than ten percent of the total deaths.

However, the rate at which the number of victims of African infections is decreasing is admirable. In the last decades, their number has fallen three to four times faster than in developed countries. Africa is experiencing a tremendous medical revolution.

In 1990, 25% of the total deaths died in poor countries in diseases such as diabetes or cancer. In 2040, that proportion would be 80%.

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 in poor countries still have such illnesses at a later age than people in developed countries. Cardiac disorders, diabetes and other diseases, known as civilization diseases, are actually diseases of the poor.

According to medical expert Thomas Bollyky, poor countries have to cope with the consequences of their success. This is because these countries are fighting infectious diseases with healthcare from the international community. In developed countries it was not so. In US cities between 1900 and 1936, mortality fell primarily due to the filtration and chlorination of water. Better hygiene, quarantine and education have had beneficial effects before the emergence of effective drugs.

Poor countries achieve the same quicker results, but often without the institutional changes that have passed through developed cities. Deaths among children have fallen. But the result is too often sick adults who live without adequate medical care or employment opportunities.

Poor states should therefore spend more money on preventing and treating non-communicable diseases. African elves often ignore the problem and look for care abroad. However, those who remain in these countries have, at most, very limited medical assistance.

Africa is urbanizing at an astonishing pace, but cities are often unprepared and overcrowded by the sick.

The reorientation to civilization diseases must be in Africa and in foreign organizations. Cancer, upper respiratory tract disorders, heart disorders and diabetes account for 60% of deaths worldwide. However, only a percentage of aid to developing countries is spent on health care for the treatment of non-communicable diseases.

Poor countries should also take action against pollution and tobacco products. African governments should co-opt cigarette producers and other promoters of unhealthy lifestyles.

FT: The rapid medical revolution in Africa is facing old challenges

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