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Life expectancy in Lesotho among the lowest globally


Ntsoaki Motaung

Lesotho faces a significant health challenge, with recent data showing that its life expectancy is among the lowest in the world.

Breaking down the numbers, life expectancy for males in Lesotho is 52 years, while females can expect to live up to 58 years.

This is significantly lower than the global averages of 71 years for males and 76 years for females.

Comparatively, in the East and Southern Africa region, the average life expectancy is higher, with males living up to 62 years and females up to 67 years.

Several factors contribute to the low life expectancy in Lesotho. The country struggles with high rates of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, which have a profound impact on public health.

Additionally, access to healthcare services is limited, particularly in rural areas, exacerbating health inequalities.

Among the countries with the lowest life expectancies, Lesotho is joined by Nigeria (54 years for males and 55 years for females), the Central African Republic (54 years for males and 58 years for females), and Chad (52 years for males and 56 years for females).

This data is contained in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)’s recently released State of World Population Report 2024.

The report further revealed that between 2000 and 2020, global maternal mortality declined by 34 percent.

UNFPA labeled this a success story that can be credited largely to better access to skilled and emergency obstetric care.

According to the report, from 1990 to 2021, the number of women using modern contraception doubled and there has been a 19 percent decline in the unintended pregnancy rate between 1990–1994 and 2015–2019.

“Births among girls aged 15 to 19 years have fallen by around one-third since 2000. HIV infection rates have dropped significantly. The number of new infections in 2021 was almost one-third fewer than in 2010. The proportion of girls subjected to female genital mutilation has decreased significantly as well, due to shifting attitudes towards the practice,” the report read.

It further stated that once promising progress in reducing preventable maternal deaths has largely stalled, between 2016 and 2020, the global annual reduction in maternal deaths was effectively zero.

“That means around 800 women still die every day while giving birth, and nearly every one of those deaths is preventable,” the report read.

It mentioned that maternal deaths are a telling microcosm of the inequalities that plague all aspects of sexual and reproductive health because of how blatant the disparities are – between countries and within them.

The difference between living and dying, according to the report, can depend on where a woman gives birth, as the vast majority of maternal deaths, over 70 percent, take place in sub-Saharan Africa, home to many of the world’s least developed countries and most fragile health systems.

“A woman in this region who experiences pregnancy and childbirth complications is around 130 times more likely to die from them than a woman in Europe or North America,” it read.

“Inequities within regions and countries are also wide and deep. In Madagascar, for example, the richest women are five times more likely than the poorest to have skilled assistance when giving birth; and across the Americas, people of African descent are more likely to experience obstetric mistreatment,” it added.

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