Lesotho is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa. The country, with a population of 2.1 million, suffers from high rates of poverty with more than 50% of the population living below the income poverty line of $1.25 a day. The majority (72%) of the population lives in rural areas far away from services, like healthcare.
Many people in Lesotho thus face barriers to accessing healthcare because of the cost of traveling to distant healthcare facilities. A shortage of skilled health workers only adds to this problem.
Lesotho has one of the highest mortality rates in Southern Africa and an average life expectancy of only 49 years. These are the top diseases in Lesotho:
- HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis: Lesotho has the third-highest HIV infection rate in the world, with almost 23% of adults aged 15-49 affected and more than 9,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2014. Of the people infected with HIV, 80% are also infected with tuberculosis.
- Lower respiratory infections: Lower respiratory infections like pneumonia affect many people in Lesotho. Lower respiratory infections result in an annual mortality rate of 120 deaths per 100,000 people. One of the main causes of these infections is household air pollution from solid fuels used for cooking and heat.
- Diarrheal Diseases: Lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation contributes to high rates of diarrheal diseases. While diarrheal diseases do not necessarily cause many deaths, they contribute greatly to the overall disease burden in the country.
- Non-communicable diseases: Like many other countries in Africa, Lesotho has seen a spike in cases of non-communicable diseases in recent years. This rise is due to various lifestyle risk factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and obesity. The most common non-communicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. In 2014, non-communicable diseases accounted for 27 % of total deaths.
While most of the top diseases in Lesotho are infectious diseases, lifestyle diseases are increasingly contributing to the overall disease burden of the country.
– Helena Jacobs