Assessing the Burden of Disease in Africa

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Posted on 9/24/2013

Children gathered outside a ChildFund early childhood development center in The Gambia, where water is provided to families.
Children gathered outside a ChildFund early childhood development center in The Gambia, where water is provided to families.

Families living in poverty in developing nations around the world face many challenges, including preventable diseases. The severity of this risk can be difficult to accurately determine, but recent data suggests that the burden of disease in Africa remains among the highest in the world. A recent report published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and the Human Development Network at the World Bank Group revealed the extent of sub-Saharan Africa's burden of disease. Although conditions have improved in many African nations, diseases — particularly those that are preventable — still pose a significant threat to children's lives.

Persistent Problems

Researchers studied where progress has been made in reducing the burden of disease in sub-Saharan Africa, and which health threats still pose a problem.

Key findings of the study revealed that the burden of disease relating to communicable health problems such as diarrheal complications and lower respiratory infections. Although these remain serious problems in many sub-Saharan African nations, fatalities, especially among children, are much lower on average today than they were 20 years ago. Similarly, although child mortality rates have fallen substantially since 1990 across the region, malaria and HIV and AIDS still pose a significant threat to health in sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, countries where these diseases are prevalent often have much higher infant mortality rates than those where they are not.

As deaths attributed to malaria, diarrhea and other communicable diseases have fallen, other health problems have become more prevalent across much of sub-Saharan Africa. Diabetes and strokes are becoming more common in many countries, and reported cases of ischemic heart disease have also risen in some nations. Overall, much progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go in lowering the number of child deaths across sub-Saharan Africa.  

Making a Difference

Poverty is a complex problem that requires action on many levels. In some countries, such as Kenya and Uganda, expanding access to clean drinking water is crucial to reduce the spread of communicable diseases and improve the overall health of communities where medical care is scarce. ChildFund works in some of the world's poorest countries to provide children in need with drinking water and other essentials.

In Uganda, for example, access to safe water supplies can be scarce, particularly in rural regions where families are often forced to walk many miles to the nearest well or spring. To provide access to clean water for families living in the Wakiso district, ChildFund launched a project to give families water jars so they do not have to make arduous treks to the nearest borehole.   

Access to clean water is also a problem in The Gambia. Until recently, many families had to rely on overused, unclean water sources near one of ChildFund's early childhood development centers in Sibanor, a village in The Gambia's Western Division. With funding from the World Bank and support from our local partners, we were able to construct a water pyramid, a device that enables the collection of rainwater. Today, thousands of families benefit from this innovative solution, as the water pyramid can provide the community with around 1,320 gallons of water per day.

Reaching Out

Many of ChildFund's health care initiatives are partially funded by the support from our sponsors and monthly giving partners. Although much progress has been made, thousands of children's lives remain at risk due to preventable disease and other health problems. To allow us to continue our work in some of the world's poorest countries, please consider making a donation to our Children's Greatest Needs fund. This monthly giving program enables us to provide aid and support to children in need and their families, and your generosity will make a world of difference.