SA’s Mortality Rate on The Decline

Statistics South Africa released the latest data on national mortality this week, revealing that South Africa’s mortality rate is the lowest that it has been in over a decade. 6.5% less deaths occurred in 2013 in comparison with 2012, this is indicated in the drop from 491 100 recorded deaths to 458 933 recorded deaths, and a great improvement on the 2002 figure of 502 797 recorded deaths.

Tuberculosis remains the leading cause of death in SA causing 8.8% of all deaths, followed by influenza and pneumonia at 5.2% of all deaths, HIV at 5.1% and cerebrovascular diseases at 4.9%. In a shocking, and telling statistic, diabetes sits in fifth place and is responsible for 4.7% of all South African deaths.

HIV has risen to being the third leading cause of death, from its sixth position in the 2012 statistics. But Statistician General Pali Lehohla says that the rise is due to improved recording of deaths rather than an actual increase in deaths as a result of the virus.

By category, one should keep an eye on infectious and parasitic diseases which, as a group, are accountable for 23% of all the deaths that occurred in 2013. One should also be wary of circulatory system diseases as these were responsible for 17% of the total deaths reported.

A high figure of 60% was allocated to deaths caused by injuries in men aged 20-24, while for women of the same age 28% was allocated.

18% of the total number of deaths consisted of individuals who have been smokers.

While Gauteng may have the highest death rate out of all provinces, at 21% of all deaths occurring within its area jurisdiction, they have the lowest rate for accident related deaths scoring on 3.6%. The highest was Limpopo with 30.6%, closely followed by the Northern Cape with 24.1%. The Northern Cape is the province with the highest rate of assault related deaths as 23.1%.

It was found that 44.2% of South Africans die in hospitals and just 23.2% die at home.

SA Drought Could Compound TB Mortality Crisis

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With Tuberculosis maintaining its status as the deadliest threat in South Africa, Heinrich Volmink, the Shadow Deputy Minister of Health, shares his understanding of the affect of SA’s drought on TB.

“The current drought facing SA has the potential to increase the risks surrounding the already existing TB crisis. This could occur due to two factors; crop failure and the resultant mass urbanization,” says Volmink.

“Our country is already faced with an acute malnutrition problem that will only be exacerbated by crop failure and increased food prices. An increase in malnutrition will weaken the immune system of society at large, but especially the vulnerable such as the already ill, children and the elderly. This could result in an increase in the spread of TB amongst the general population,” he explains.

“Mass urbanization could occur as the drought results in a scarcity of resources in rural and remote areas. This would lead to a rapid increase in population density – one of the main risk factors concerning the spread of TB,” says Volmink.

“TB is one of our country’s most devastating public health challenges, and it has long been a target of government’s health strategies. However, a water security crisis, compounded by the drought could hamstring these initiatives,” Volmink emphasizes.

Volmink has resolved to write a letter to the Minister of Health, addressing the major points of concern and outlining a call to action.