Although access to healthcare in Africa has improved over the past decade, but there is still much to be desired. One in six children born in the region today will die before age five. African women face more than 100 times the risk of maternal mortality than do women in the developed world. The average life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa is 51 years. The underlying issue is the lack of access to healthcare. This is compounded by large geographical spaces and large rural areas.

Health is a fundamental human right. The human right to health means that everyone should have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship. Access to health care encompasses access to affordable, quality health care which is important to physical, social, and mental health.  Access to healthcare affects families, communities and businesses. Healthy people are more productive at work and in society. Access to healthcare is pivotal in promoting and maintaining health, preventing and managing disease, reducing unnecessary disability and premature death, and achieving health equity. Lack or limited access to healthcare exasperates poverty and inequality.

Today on World Health Day, here are 10 facts on healthcare in Africa:

1. People in Sub-Saharan Africa have the worst health, on average, in the world. The region has 11 percent of the world’s population but carries 24 percent of the global disease burden.

2. Africa bears 24 percent of the global disease burden but has only 2 percent of the world’s doctors.

Rank Country Physicians per Million People
1 Liberia 14
2 Malawi 19
3 Niger 19
4 Ethiopia 22
5 Sierra Leone 22
6 Tanzania 30
7 Somalia 35
8 Chad 37
9 Gambia, The 38
10 Mozambique 40
11 Guinea-Bissau 45
12 Burkina Faso 47
13 Central African Republic 50
14 Togo 53
15 Rwanda 56
16 Papua New Guinea 58
17 Benin 59
18 Senegal 59
19 Timor-Leste 73
20 Cameroon 80
21 Mali 83
22 Zimbabwe 83
23 Congo, Rep. 95
24 Ghana 96
25 Guinea 100

3. Africa has less than 1 percent of global health expenditure and only 3 percent of the world’s health workers.

4. A conservative estimates that four in ten people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to medical facilities or personnel.

5. People in rural areas have less access to healthcare than people residing in urban areas.

6. Africans view access to healthcare as the second-most-important national problem that government should address.

Most important issues | 36 countries | 2014/2015 (Source: AfroBarometer)

7. The continent needs $25-30 billion in new investment to meet the healthcare demand.

8. There is massive corruption in the healthcare systems. One in seven (14%) of those who accessed health services paid a bribe or did a favour to obtain the needed service.

Difficulty and bribe payment in obtaining healthcare in Africa
(Source: AfroBarometer)

9. Without access to medicines, Africans are susceptible to the three big killer diseases on the continent: malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

10. There is a large brain drain in the African healthcare sector.  African countries have lost about $2.6 billion dollars training doctors who are now living in western countries. A staggering 25 to 50 percent of African-born doctors are working overseas.

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