East, North Africa conflicts threaten two decades of
health gains: research
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[August 25, 2016]
By Magdalena Mis
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The
Arab Spring uprising and subsequent conflicts in the Middle East and
North Africa have lowered life expectancy in countries such as Syria,
Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt, jeopardizing two decades of health gains,
experts said on Wednesday.
Between 2010 and 2013, Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt lost some 3 months
of the average person's life expectancy, while the war in Syria has
erased 6 years off average life expectancy, they said in a research
published in The Lancet Global Health journal.
"Life expectancy decline is traditionally regarded as a sign that
the health and social systems are failing," said Ali Mokdad, a
professor at the U.S.-based University of Washington, who led the
"The fact that this is happening in several countries indicates
there is an immediate need to invest in health care systems," he
said in a statement.
Demonstrations and protests in 2011 involving hundreds of thousands
of people challenged the grip on power of autocratic rulers across
the Arab world.
While Tunisia managed mostly to escape the kind of violent
aftershocks seen in other Arab Spring countries that toppled
longstanding leaders, Egypt, Yemen and Libya are still struggling to
Conflict in Syria has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced
some 11 million since it began more than five years ago as
Many of the health gains achieved by countries in the region are at
risk of stalling as fighting has damaged basic infrastructure while
millions are at risk of disease outbreaks caused by water shortages
and poor sanitation, the experts said.
"Along with population growth and aging, these ongoing conflicts
have dramatically increased the burden of chronic diseases and
injuries and many health workers have fled for safer shores," said
"These issues will result in deteriorating health conditions in many
countries for many years and will put a strain on already scarce
Syria is falling behind countries sub-Saharan Africa in reducing
child mortality, with infant deaths rising by 9.1 percent a year
between 2010 and 2013.
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In the decade before 2010 they were falling at an average of 6
percent a year, the study said.
Across the region, heart disease was the number one cause of death
in 2013, overtaking diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections,
Deaths from diabetes rose to 19 per 100,000 people from 12 per
100,000 between 1990 and 2013, said the experts, warning that such
trends will put an additional strain on already scarce finances and
The researchers analyzed patterns of poor health and deaths in the
region due to 306 diseases and injuries between 1990 to 2013, using
data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit
Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters,
that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and
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