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AFRICA: Life expectancy set to reach lowest levels ever

The life expectancy of Africans is set to reach one of its lowest levels ever, it was revealed on Monday. By the year 2005, most Africans will die before they reach their 48th birthday, the fourth general assembly of the African Population Commission (APC) heard.

And disease, the main killer, has become a risk to the national security of African countries, threatening the very survival of some communities, the conference in Addis Ababa was told. The spread of HIV/AIDS in particular, and wars and poverty, have driven down the life expectancy by 15 years in the last two decades.

Lawrence Agubuzu, the assistant secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) said many of the continent’s 700 million population were blighted by poverty, civil war and disease. Speaking at the opening of the four-day conference, he said women and children were the most vulnerable group, and their needs must be addressed.

"Today Africa is distinctly characterised by abject socioeconomic conditions and unprecedented extreme demographic trends with far-reaching consequences," he stated. "The population factor is at the centre of these problems," he told delegates from across the whole continent.

"The high population growth, coupled with an unstable political, social and economic climate, and widespread poverty, are factors that jeopardise the socioeconomic situation of African countries and contribute to the degradation of the environment."

"The statistics of morbidity and mortality due to HIV/AIDS are very grim on our continent," he added. "Suffice to say that because of HIV/AIDS, life expectancy at birth and GDP [Gross Domestic Product] have decreased significantly in badly affected countries, and will continue to do so for many years."

He said diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and related infectious diseases had become a risk to security and a major threat to socioeconomic development. In some African countries like Mali, 130 children per 1,000 die before they reach the age of one year. Agubuzu said part of the problem was that ignorance "pervades" all sectors of society so that people do not take preventive measures.

Prosper Poukouta, from the African Development Bank, said Africa was the only continent where the number of poor would continue to rise over the next decade. "It is also alarming to note that a large number of countries will not achieve the main objectives of social development, which are education and primary health for all," he said. "This situation has been worsened by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the frequency of wars and conflict."

The conference is targeting three main areas – HIV/AIDS, the migration of populations, and helping address the "uncertainty and confusion" of African youth in their societies.

Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews,

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