South Africa has a population of approximately 53 million people. As of 2013, 30% of the population is under 15 years old, and only 9% is over 60. The majority of inhabitants, 64%, live in urban areas. Birth registrations are high for the area and reach approximately 85%. The life expectancy at birth is only 59 years of age. The leading causes of death in this country are discussed below.
Leading Causes of Death in South Africa
According to Statistics South Africa, the leading cause of death in South Africa is tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an infection that begins in the lungs and is spread through air particles. Although tuberculosis is pretty rare in most developed countries, a high incidence of HIV in a country can also increase the tuberculosis rate as HIV lowers individual immune systems. In South Africa, tuberculosis is responsible for a total of 8.8% of the total deaths on average.
Influenza and Pneumonia
Influenza, or the flu, is a common viral condition that can be very dangerous to the young, elderly, or immunocompromised. If serious enough, the flu virus can turn into pneumonia, where the lungs fill with liquid. Influenza or pneumonia are responsible for 5.2% of all deaths in South Africa.
The third most commonn killer in South Africa is HIV/AIDS. This disease is responsible for 5.1% of all deaths each year. The disease is contracted through the sharing or bodily fluids or by sharing needles with an infected person. Medical professionals can also spread the disease via infected blood transfusions. Additionally, an infected, pregnant mother could pass it along to her child. South Africa has one of the highest prevalance of HIV/AIDS carriers in the world, with some people having no access to antiviral medications. Those individuals living in rural areas are more likely to carry the virus undetected for longer periods of time leading to complications and eventual death.
Other leading causes of death include cerebrovascular disease (4.9%), diabetes mellitus (4.8%), heart disease (other forms), and hypertensive diseases (3.7%).
Access to Health Care Facilities
South Africans have low access to health care facilities, particularly those individuals living in rural areas. Primary health care, which would teach and focus on prevention of the earlier mentioned diseases, is provided by the government and free to residents. However, the services available are sub-par, underfunded, and outdated due to financial constraints in the public sector. The number of doctors available is insufficient to treat the large number of patients arriving at the hospitals, and many are attended to by nurses or midwives. Private hospitals do exist, and their quality of care is at higher standards, but they are inaccessible by the majority of individuals due to their high cost and urban-centered locations. People living in rural areas face the greatest barriers to receiving healthcare and even when a medical post is staffed, it could still be hours away from the population. The government has handled this problem by publishing a health care reform plan that will provide health insurance to all South Africans and promises to invest more funds in the public health sector.