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COVID pandemic reversed progress of last 10 years in global life expectancy: WHO

IANS May 25, 2024

The recent deadly COVID-19 pandemic reversed the last 10 years’ steady gain seen in life expectancy at birth and healthy life expectancy at birth (HALE) worldwide, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) released on 24 May.

The report, World Health Statistics 2024, showed that between 2019 and 2021, global life expectancy declined by 1.8 years to 71.4 years (back to the level of 2012). Similarly, within just two years global healthy life expectancy dipped by 1.5 years to 61.9 years in 2021 (back to the level of 2012).

"In just two years, the COVID-19 pandemic erased a decade of gains in life expectancy," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. Stressing the importance of the Pandemic Agreement, he said it will "not only strengthen global health security, but protect long-term investments in health and promote equity within and between countries".

In 2020, COVID-19 infection ranked as the third highest cause of mortality globally, while it emerged as the second leading cause of death in 2021.

"Nearly 13 million lives were lost during this period," the report said. Further, the report showed that noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as ischaemic heart disease and stroke, cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, and diabetes accounted for 78 per cent of non-COVID deaths during the pandemic.

The pandemic also increased obesity in young and old (over one billion), underweight (more than half a billion) and malnutrition in children.

"About 148 million children under five years old were affected by stunting (too short for age), 45 million suffering from wasting (too thin for height), and 37 million overweight," the report said.

The report called for "accelerating progress" to meet the health Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). by 2030.

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