The leading cause of death in Africa used to be HIV/AIDS. Not anymore, according to World Health Organization data. Lower respiratory infections have taken over as leading causes of death in the region.

Deaths due to HIV/AIDS is still significant at 760,000 in 2015. But Africa Check, an organization that checks facts focused on Africa, found that lower respiratory tract infections accounted for about a million deaths in the same year.

Pneumonia and bronchitis, caused by bacteria and viruses, fall under this category of pulmonary infections.

The third top killer is diarrhoeal diseases at 643,000, while stroke claimed the lives of 451,000 patients and ischaemic heart diseases rounded the top five with 441,000 deaths.

In its report, Africa Check pointed out the WHO based their estimates on the latest available national information on deaths by place, time and cause and its data reflect 2015 statistics.

It is significant to note that the top five leading causes of death are slowly resembling those of top morbidity causes in developed countries. The trend, the report added, will likely persist because the region is now experiencing increased urbanisation and better access to medical care.

In 2010, at least a million deaths in Africa were said to have been due to HIV. Africa Check attributed the 24 percent decrease to better attention to diagnosis and treatment. Moreover, there have been increased efforts to educate Africans about the acquired immune deficiency syndrome and the virus that ultimately leads to the disease.

What is worrisome is that people with HIV are particularly at risk for tuberculosis and may be contributing to the rising deaths attributed to respiratory infections.

Meanwhile, pneumonia, an increasingly significant problem in the region, is responsible for 16 percent of global deaths of children younger than five years. Diarrhoea, on the other hand, is compounded by several factors, among them malnutrition. It is the second leading cause of death of kids younger than five in the region.

The group has warned of an increase in numbers death as a result of strokes - from 4.4 percent in 2010 (725,000) to 4.9 percent or 451,000 in 2015. There was also a slight increase in deaths due to ischaemic heart diseases from 389,785 in 2010 (4.2 percent) to 441,000 in 2015 (4.8 percent).

Africa Check likewise listed tuberculosis with 456,000 deaths, malaria at 403,000 death, preterm birth complications with 344,000, birth asphyxia with 321,000 and road injuries at 269,000 as other major causes of mortality in Africa. MIMS

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