Complications from HIV/AIDS are no longer the biggest killer in Africa and deaths from malaria are down. However, it isn’t all good news.
Although this is undoubtedly an optimistic development, the latest statistics show an unwelcome rise in “lifestyle diseases”, much like the ones we see throughout the Western world.
In 2012, more than 1.1 million people in Africa were known to have died due to complications from HIV/AIDS. By 2015, this number declined to an estimated 760,000 deaths due to HIV/AIDS complications (the latest data available). Much of this is thanks to the huge amount of time and money put into raising awareness, changing perceptions, contraception, and medical treatments.
HIV/AIDS complications remain a prominent threat and are still the second-leading cause of death in Africa. The leading cause of death is now lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, which kill over 1 million Africans each year.
The third highest cause of death was diarrhea, although figures are down to 643,000 deaths per year compared to 725,000 in 2010. Worldwide, 88 percent of diarrhoeal deaths are caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasite picked up from drinking unsafe water, poor sanitation, or insufficient hygiene.
At number four, stroke deaths increased over the past five years from 406,595 (4.4 percent of deaths) to 451,000 deaths (4.9 percent) in 2015.
Malaria, now accounting for just 403,000 deaths, is no longer in the “top 5” leading causes of death. However, taking its place in the top 5 is ischaemic heart disease. This is a condition in which the flow of blood is restricted to the heart muscle due to the narrowing arteries and build up of fatty deposits. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking or high cholesterol, are strongly associated with it. It remains one of the biggest causes of death across many Western nations.
Along with strokes and heart disease, another noncommunicable disease on the up is liver cirrhosis, most often associated with heavy drinking. Unfortunately, these kinds of “lifestyle diseases” often go hand-in-hand with increased urbanization and improved standards of living, just as Africa has seen over the past decades.
The next leading causes of death in the region were tuberculosis (456,000), malaria (403,000), pre-term birth complications (344,000), birth asphyxia or trauma (321,000), and road injury (269,000).