N$156bn lost to diseases

Infectious and parasitic diseases such as tuberculosis and STDs were responsible for the most loss of healthy life years, followed by HIV/Aids and neonatal conditions.

03 April 2019 | Health

Diseases afflicting Namibia's population resulted in a N$156 billion loss to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015 alone.

They were also responsible for a substantial loss in health, estimated at nearly 1.1 million years.

This is according to a new World Health Organisation (WHO) report that examines the disease burden on African countries.

The study quantifies the GDP losses associated with Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). This is the summary measure used to give an indication of the overall burden of disease.

According to the 'A Heavy Burden: The Productivity Cost of Illness in Africa' report, diseases cost the continent US$2.4 trillion a year.

The report indicated that diseases affecting Namibia resulted in a total of 1.13 million DALYs of which 619 300 were from communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions.

Infectious and parasitic diseases such as tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) were responsible for the most loss of healthy life years, followed by HIV/Aids and neonatal conditions.

Furthermore, non-communicable diseases in Namibia accounted for 388 100 DALYs.

Under this category, injuries such as road injuries and self-harm, cardiovascular disorders and mental and substance abuse contributed the most.

According to the report in the WHO African Region, total losses amounted to more than 629.6 million DALYs. Out of this total, more than 416.6 million (59.1 %) were from communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional diseases, 30.7% from non-communicable diseases and 10.2% from injuries.

Five countries - the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania - accounted for almost 50% of the total DALYs accrued in the region.

The report added that around 47% or US$796 billion of this lost productivity value could be avoided in 2030 if the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to these health conditions are achieved.

SGD 3 on universal health coverage requires countries in the WHO African Region to spend, on average, at least US$271 (N$3 850) per capita, per year on health or 7.5% of the region's GDP.

According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimates, attaining the 17 SDGs will require spending ranging from US$1.5 trillion to US$2.5 trillion per year until 2030, or up to US$37.5 trillion. Low-income countries will need an additional US$671 billion (US$76 per capita on average) until 2030 to attain the health-related SDGs.

The report says to achieve the targets, countries must invest adequately in the development of resilient national and local health systems to effectively, affordably and efficiently deliver the integrated packages of proven cost-effective interventions contained in the relevant programmatic global strategies and plans to target populations in need.

Achieving the SDGs by 2030, including the target on universal health coverage, will require political will and greater focus on government-led planning and financing for health. It will also necessitate greater outlays from public revenue, reforms to raise additional revenue and strategic purchasing mechanisms.

It will also require that people who are usually left behind are put at the centre of health financing reform.

“This report illustrates how the achievement of the critical health SDG targets, including universal health coverage, would contribute to poverty eradication efforts on a large scale, reduce disparities in lifespan, tackle social exclusion and promote political stability and economic development in the WHO African Region,” explained Grace Kabaniha, a health economist in the WHO regional office for Africa.

“It also provides much-needed evidence that ministries of health can use in dialogue on resource allocation with ministries of finance. It adds to the body of evidence showing that health is a strategic investment for development.”


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