Government health sector reports show that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes are on the rise and now account for about 40% of Tanzania’s disease burden.
The country has one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, and UN projections suggest it will be one of eight countries responsible for more than half the increase in global population by 2050. People are also living longer – life expectancy is a predicted 66 for men and 71 for women by 2025 – and the UN expects the number of Tanzanians over 60 to more than double over the next three decades. Even at its current population, Tanzania is struggling to meet its health needs.
Older Tanzanians are disproportionately affected by NCDs, yet nearly 90% of people over 50 do not have health insurance and have little access to medical services. The state health insurance scheme can cost between £70 and £350 a year, and healthcare costs are prohibitive for many. Authorities estimate that more than three-quarters of people don’t visit hospitals until they are severely ill.
Mary Mayige, coordinator of the National Survey for Non-Communicable Diseases, says that conditions that once mainly affected the elderly now affect people in their 30s who are “the production engine of the country”. Healthcare has always been thought about in terms of spending, she says. “It’s high time that countries begin to look at the situation as a threat to the economy and human capital development.”
Tanzania allocates less than 5% of its GDP to health, which is below the international threshold for provision of basic services. Donor funding contributes to about 60% of total public spending, but the health programmes it pays for are heavily skewed towards infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, despite data which suggests that cases of infectious diseases are falling, while NCDs are on the rise and account for nearly half of the country’s deaths.
In the blood: why diabetes is the scourge of entire families in Tanzania | Global development | The Guardian
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