According to data accumulated by the United Nations, life expectancy in Burkina Faso has increased by 32 years since 1950. Contemporary estimates place Burkina Faso’s current life expectancy at 62 years, while in 1950 life expectancy was measured to be 30 years. Despite these gains, contemporary figures remain low compared to the developed world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Burkina Faso showcase the massive strides made in public health and standard of living while also describing challenges yet to be overcome.
10 facts About Life Expectancy in Burkina Faso
- Malaria: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists malaria as the number one cause of death in Burkina Faso. Severe Malaria Observatory reports that malaria is responsible for 61.5 percent of all hospitalizations and 30.5 percent of deaths occurring each year due to malaria. Similarly, for children under 5, malaria is the leading cause of hospitalization with 63.2 percent of all admittances. Malaria accounts for nearly half of all deaths for children under 5.
- HIV: Tremendous strides in reducing the prevalence of HIV are further improving life expectancy in Burkina Faso. The population affected by HIV has been reduced from 2.3 percent down to 0.8 percent between 2001 and 2018. Representing an overall decrease of 65 percent, Burkina Faso reduced HIV prevalence more than any country in that period. Further, in 2007 HIV was still ranked as the fifth most likely cause of death in Burkina Faso. By 2017, HIV had plummeted to the 16th most likely cause of death. Working with major international partners including the University of Oslo, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Terre des Hommes and the Global Fund allowed Burkina Faso to develop and implement methods to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV.
- Sanitation Improvements: According to the Burkinabè government’s Ministry of Water and Sanitation between 2018 and 2019, Burkina Faso successfully constructing 26,039 family latrines and 966 public latrines. In the same year, the Burkinabè government assisted in the construction of 553 kilometers of additional water supply infrastructure and 188 new standpipes in urban areas. This construction increased national access to drinking water from 74 percent to 75.4 percent within a single year. Similarly, the national sanitation rate rose from 22.6 percent to 23.6 percent. Inadequate access to proper sanitation and clean water are the primary contributors to diarrheal disease, which is one of the leading causes of death in Burkina Faso. Improvements in sanitation have reduced deaths attributed to diarrheal diseases and increased overall life expectancy in Burkina Faso.
- Infant and Maternal Mortality: Infant mortality has decreased from 91 deaths per 1,000 births in the year 2000 to 49 deaths in 2017. Similarly, the maternal mortality rate dropped significantly between 2000 and 2017 from 516 deaths per 100,000 live births to 320 deaths per 100,000 live births. These advancements are due to greater access to hospitals, particularly in urban areas, as well as innovations in public health such as the Maternal Death Surveillance and Response system. The initiative trains health care professionals across the country to properly identify, notify and investigate instances of maternal death. Since its inception, the program has been nationalized leading to maternal and neonatal death audits so that health facilities regularly address the shortcomings of the health system to avoid future deaths.
- Child Mortality: A recent study conducted by the World Bank found that one in eight children born in Burkina Faso will die before the age of 5. The risk of under-5 mortality is 6 percent higher for children born to mothers younger than the age of 18. The average age of a woman in Burkina Faso at the time of childbirth is 19 years old and the birth rate for women aged 15-19 is 122 births per 1,000. To curb adolescent pregnancy the Burkina Faso Council of Community Development Organizations launched a campaign to reduce sexually transmitted disease, unwanted or adolescent pregnancies and unsafe abortions in Burkina Faso in 2019.
- High Fertility Rates: Even as life expectancy in Burkina Faso has improved, high fertility rates influence public health as women, on average, give birth to 4.5 children. Though contemporary efforts to address high fertility rates have been promising, the population demographic distribution is largely 14 years old and younger. With these demographics dominating the population Burkina Faso’s rate of growth will continue to increase as this younger generation reaches adulthood.
- High Growth Rates: Despite life expectancy increasing, Burkina Faso still displays a young age structure — typified by a declining mortality rate coupled with particularly high fertility rates. Burkina Faso’s population is growing at a projected rate of 2.66 percent, making the nation the 18th fastest growing population in the world. This precipitous growth places a greater strain on the nation’s arable land as well as economic well being, causing challenges in maintaining the growth of life expectancy in Burkina Faso’s future.
- Security Crisis: Since 2016, Burkina Faso has been targeted by several militant Islamist extremist groups primarily based in the country’s Northern region. Attacks committed by these groups claimed 1,800 lives in 2019, according to the United Nations. In 2019, there was a 10-fold increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs); the total people displaced is estimated at around half a million. This large number of IDPs and people who have been fleeing violence to neighboring Mali have compounded economic and ecological problems in Burkina Faso. Although, the government is looking to continue to propel growth in life expectancy in Burkina Faso.
- Humanitarian Aid: Around 948,000 people need security and 1.5 million people are currently dependent upon humanitarian aid to cover basic medical needs. Basic health care is crucial in effectively reducing poverty and improving life expectancy. Humanitarian aid is focusing on impacting 1.8 million people by providing $312 million in funding.
- Continued Growth Projections: Regardless of concerns, recently presented data from the 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects, the United Nations projects continued growth in the area of Burkinabè life expectancy. Life expectancy in Burkina Faso is projected to increase to 70 years by 2050 according to the U.N. study.
These 10 facts about life expectancy in Burkina Faso depict a nation that has made great achievements and is ready to face its contemporary problems with assistance from international partners.
– Perry Stone Budd