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Heart Disease: Leading Cause of Death in Africa, World – WHO

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Non-communicable diseases account for seven of the world’s top 10 causes of death, a speedy increase from two decades ago, a new UN World Health Organization (WHO) study has shown.

However, it says that heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Africa and the world at large.

The 2019 Global Health Estimates, released on Wednesday, clearly highlighted the need for immediate attention in preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, as well as tackling injuries, according to WHO.

“These new estimates are another reminder that we need to rapidly step up prevention, diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“They highlight the urgency of drastically improving primary health care equitably and holistically.”

The UN statement said Dr Ghebreyesus also underlined the importance of strong primary health care for combatting non-communicable diseases as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

People living with pre-existing health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory conditions, are at higher risk of complications and death due to COVID-19.

The statement said the study covers the years 2000 to 2019, prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The next update to the estimates will include an assessment of the direct and indirect impact of the pandemic on mortality and morbidity.

According to WHO, heart disease has remained the leading cause of death at the global level for the last 20 years, but it is now killing more people than ever before, representing 16 per cent of total deaths from all causes.

The number of deaths from heart disease increased over fourfold, from 2 million since 2000, to nearly 9 million in 2019, it said.

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are now among the top 10 causes of death worldwide, and deaths from diabetes increased by 70 per cent globally between 2000 and 2019.

The findings also pointed to a global decline in deaths from communicable diseases, though they remain a major challenge in low- and middle-income countries. Deaths from tuberculosis, for instance, reduced by about 30 per cent.

The Global Health Estimates also found that life-spans have increased over the years, with a global average of more than 73 years (in 2019) compared to nearly 67 (in 2000). But on average, only 5 of those additional years were lived in good health.

“Disability is on the rise,” WHO said, explaining that to a large extent, the diseases and health conditions causing the most deaths are also responsible for most number of healthy life-years lost.

“Injuries are another major cause of disability and death,” the UN agency added, noting that there has been a “significant rise” in road traffic injuries since 2000, with the African region worst affected.

In the Americas, drug use emerged as a major factor in both disability and death: there was a nearly threefold increase in deaths from drug use disorders in the Americas between 2000 and 2019.

The region is also the only one for which drug use disorder is a top 10 contributor to healthy life-years lost due to premature deaths and disability.

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Africa’s COVID-19 Death Rate Now Higher Than Global Average – CDC

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The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) says the coronavirus (COVID-19) death rate on the continent is now greater than the global average.

John N. Nkengasong – a Cameroonian virologist and Africa CDC’s Director – disclosed this in the health agency’s weekly video briefing shared on Facebook on Thursday.

Describing the situation as “worrying and concerning”, Nkengasong told reporters that the continent’s death rate stands at 2.5% against a global average of 2.2%.

He added that the number of nations recording higher rates is growing.

Earlier during the pandemic, Africa recorded lower death rates than the global average, Nkengasong said.

But in the “second wave” 21 African nations had a death rate above 3%. They are Sudan, Egypt, Liberia, Mali, Chad, Niger, The Gambia, Tunisia, Eswatini, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.

Over the past week, cases decreased by nearly 7% compared to the previous week while deaths increased 10%, according to Africa CDC data.

The continent reported 207,000 new cases in the past week, with South Africa alone reporting 100,000 of those new cases, Nkengasong said.

The continent has so far confirmed 3.3 million Covid-19 cases with 2.7 million recoveries and 81,000 deaths.

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South African Minister Dies of COVID-19

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the death of Jackson Mthembu, the Minister in the Presidency of South Africa’s government. Mthembu died of coronavirus (COVID-19), aged 62.

Mthembu, who since 2019 had been serving as the minister in the presidency, was a parliamentarian and long-serving member of the governing African National Congress (ANC).

He had worked his way up the ranks over many years and has been described as a man of integrity.

In his tribute, President Ramaphosa said the 62-year-old was “an exemplary leader” and “life-long champion of democracy”.

He said the deceased “was a much-loved and greatly respected colleague and comrade, whose passing leaves our nation at a loss.”

“I extend my deepest sympathies to the minister’s family, to his colleagues, comrades and many friends.”

Ten days ago, Mthembu shared the news in a tweet that he had abdominal pain and had tested positive for coronavirus. His last tweet on that same day read: “I want to thank the many South Africans who have wished me a speedy recovery. As a people, we must overcome Covid-19.”

Mthembu was the fourth cabinet member to be confirmed infected with the coronavirus.

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COVID-19: Zimbabwe’s First Lady Calls for Prayers, Fasting

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The Zimbabwean First Lady has invited women in the country to join her for three days of prayer and fasting over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Auxillia Mnangagwa stated she would fast and pray from Thursday till Saturday for Zimbabwe to be “spared from further calamity”.

She urged women to ensure their families observe Covid-19 safety guidelines to prevent the virus from spreading further.

“We need a plan at the household level for regularly using any means at our disposal to clean and sanitise our homes, to ensure that everyone in the home knows the importance of having a mask and masking up properly, more importantly to organise sharp, safe errands for our requirements to get going whilst enforcing the family to stay at home,” she said in a statement.

Zimbabwe has lost 879 people to coronavirus, including top government officials with the most recent death being that of Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo.

On Wednesday, January 20, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Sibusiso Moyo, died after contracting COVID-19.

Moyo, a former army general who announced the military coup that led to the removal of the late long-serving leader Robert Mugabe in November 2017.

Moyo died at a local hospital early on Wednesday,.

Moyo was one of several generals who, after helping plot the coup, were rewarded with senior positions in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet and the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Another cabinet minister, retired general and agriculture minister Perrance Shiri, died of the virus in July 2020.

Zimbabwe has suffered a surge in COVID-19 infections, with more than half of the 28,675 total cases and 825 deaths being recorded since New Year’s Day.

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