Addressing Nigeria’s Low Life Expectancy

The launch of St. Racheal’s Pharma in Lagos recently has afforded experts the platform to shed light on why Nigeria’s life expectancy is still one of the lowest in the world despite its rich natural and human resources. Martins Ifijeh writes

While Nigeria continues to pride itself as the largest economy in Africa with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than $400 billion, its life expectancy ratio has continued to be at variance and an embarrassment to the status the country professes.

The May 2016 life expectancy data published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown that Nigeria, again, has one of the lowest life ratios in Africa and in the world; with 55 years for females and 54 years for males, standing at the 177th position globally, just above eight other countries of the world. On the average, the life expectancy ratio is 54.5 for the country.

Also, NOI Polls, a country-specific polling service in the West African region, said Nigeria’s life expectancy at birth as at 2015 stands at 53 for males and 56 for females.

The two publications by different organisations conducted within a year interval suggest that not much has been done by Nigeria to address its life expectancy ratio.

Surprisingly, disaster and war-torn countries like South Sudan, Rwanda, Haiti, Yemen, Afghanistan, and poorer nations like Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) all have higher life expectancy rates than Africa’s giant, Nigeria. Meaning citizens of these countries will, on the average, live longer than Nigerians.
For instance, in Yemen, an average person will live for 65 years, DRC citizens will, on the average, live up to 59 years, while those in Mozambique have a life expectancy of 57 years.

In Japan, an average person will live to as high as 83.7 years, those in United Kingdom will live up to 81 years, others in United States will live up to 79 years, while in Algeria, which is an African country, the life expectancy rate is 75 years.

The Commissioner for Health, Abia State, Dr. John Ahukannah during his presentation at the launch of St. Racheal’s Pharma in Lagos recently, tagged: ‘Improving Life Expectancy in Africa’ said global life expectancy is at 71.4 years, which has therefore made Nigeria’s indices a far cry compared to the human and natural resources at the country’s disposal that could tackle factors collaborating against positive life expectancy rate.

He defined life expectancy as the reflection of the overall mortality level in a population.

According to WHO, its report shows that newborns in 29 countries – all of them high income – have an average life expectancy of 80 years or more, while newborns in 22 others – all of them in sub-Saharan Africa — have life expectancy of less than 60 years.

Ahukannah said globally, Africa has the lowest life expectancy with Sierra Leone taking the lead as their men is 49.3 and females 50.8. Whereas Switzerland has the highest point with their men having 81.3 and Japan has the highest point for female with 86.8.

“The various reasons why life expectancy has remained low in Nigeria have to do with sickness which has the highest point with 26 per cent and poverty with 24 per cent. Others include: motor accident 16 per cent, malnutrition seven per cent, natural death six per cent, stress five per cent, high blood pressure five per cent, poor medical care three per cent, bad lifestyle two per cent, high cost of living two per cent, sin against God two per cent, crime two per cent, negligence two per cent and others two per cent.

“45 per cent of the population has no access to clean water in Africa. It is not surprising that we have a lot of diarrheas and water-borne diseases.”

He said government’s poor economics seem to play quite a huge role in the low life expectancy of Africans, adding that clearly, many African countries, including Nigeria are poor and unable to build and maintain standard facilities that patients can access.

“In Nigeria, for example, we do have issues of salaries not being paid on time and if you don’t have money in your pocket, you probably will not be able to access quality medical care.

“Second point is the high corruption index in Africa. I’m not saying there is no corruption globally, but the index in Africa is quite high. What this means is that financial aids do not get to those who need them, and money for development ends up in private hands.

“Unemployment rate is also high. A man, who has no job or money, when sick, will first of all go to a prayer house or chemist before approaching a pharmacy or hospital. All he’s trying to do is to cut cost because he has no money. Unemployment also affects the grade of hospital patronised,” he explained.

According to Ahukannah, who is an endocrinologist and a diabetes expert, he identified wide spread of Human Immuno-virus disease, famines, personal behaviours such as excessive smoking and lack of physical activity as factors limiting life expectancy in Nigeria and Africa in general.

“The level of education also seems to affect the life expectancy in any given region of the world. It is said that high literacy rate are associated with improved life expectancy. Education obviously augments labour market productivity and income growth,” he added.

To increase life expectancy rate, the commissioner said government must provide qualitative healthcare policies, and think of sustainable healthcare financing. “Another thing is the strengthening of our Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) to be able to serve our population. Then free and affordable education to at least secondary level (while government should), increase job creation, employment opportunities, minimum wage for workers, and then the stabilisation of the country’s micro and macro economy,” he proffered.

On his part, the Founder and Managing Director, JayKay Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company Limited, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, who was the chairman of the occasion, said life expectancy before year 2000 was really low but has improved post 2000 or more or less doubled, adding that efforts must be intensified to increase life expectancy for Nigeria, and Africa in general.

Lauding the Founder of St. Racheal’s Pharma for the bold initiative, he said, “at a stage in my life, I was an agent to some multinationals, I learnt a very hard lesson that, as an agent, you continue to work for them, and when they are ready to move on, they will dump you. So when I see others coming behind who are setting up their brands, I try to be part and parcel of it,” he said.

He said brands like St. Racheal would help in its own way to reduce life expectancy for the continent, as it is affordable with quality products accessible all over Africa.

The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, St. Racheal’s Pharma, Mr. Akinjide Adeosun, who spoke on ’All Things Are Possible,’ said the company’s quest is to improve life expectancy through the availability of top-quality affordable pharmaceuticals in Africa, adding that this aligns with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) three-Good health and well-being and four-Quality education.

“All things are indeed possible, if we tune, align and believe. It is our desire to ensure Nigerians live long and businesses outlive their founders. My message to young Nigerians today is: There is no short cut to hard work,” he said.

In his presentation titled ‘Life is Beautiful’, the Product Manager, St. Rapheal Pharma, Mr. Oluseyi Adelaja assured of peace of mind to healthcare practitioners in Nigeria as they prescribe, dispense and administer high qualitative antibiotics.

He advised physicians to insist their patients receive high quality products, adding that when drugs are affordable, accessible and available, there would be improvements in the citizen’s life expectancy rates.

A major highlight of the event was the formal launch of the pharmaceutical firm into global pharmaceutical market and the simultaneous launch of the company’s collection of antibiotics.

The launch witnessed a fusion of Science, Entertainment and Art. An interactive, Turning Point Technology was deployed to enhance recall of key learning by healthcare practitioners during the event. Top Nigerian artists also displayed paintings on education, spots, health – key enablers to improve life expectancy.

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