KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • Instances of both infectious and chronic diseases are plaguing developing countries in Africa.
  • This health problem presents a healthcare crisis, as spending skyrockets and efficient primary care becomes difficult for people to attain in the region.

The disease burden in developing countries has historically been the greatest in infectious ailments, such as malaria. In contrast, developed countries tend to have eradicated many common infections and suffer more from chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

The picture in Africa, however, is more nuanced than either of these polar archetypes. Infectious disease is rampant, especially in poorer West Africa, but chronic diseases are also rising across the continent due to changing diets and longer life expectancy.

To illustrate this two-pronged health problem, we know that in many African countries, diabetes rates are at a shocking [readmore]30% in both men and women aged 55 to 65 years of age. At the same time, these countries are vulnerable to mass outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola, which claimed over 11,000 lives in Sierra Leone alone in 2014.

Since 7% of these Ebola casualties were health workers, the indirect deaths exceeded even the direct fatalities since doctors were too overwhelmed to treat other killer diseases. For example, in September 2014 in Sierra Leone, the number of children that were treated for malaria was down by 40% from just four months before simply due to the lack of health workers.

With both infectious and chronic diseases at high levels, a healthcare crisis is brewing in Africa. Wealthier southern Africa, where lifestyle changes are the greatest, is likely to see the highest increase in annual healthcare spending, which is likely to jump from about $17 billion today to over $30 billion in 2030, while in East Africa, spending is expected to increase from about $4 billion in 2015 to $16 billion by 2030.

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