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Global life expectancy up 5.5 years since 2000: WHO

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Global life expectancy grew by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016, the World Health Organization said yesterday, warning though that unequal income and access to healthcare translates into far shorter lives for many. The UN health agency also stressed significant gender differences in life expectancy worldwide. On average, a child born in 2016 can expect to live 72 years, up from 66.5 in 2000, according to the annual World Health Statistics report.

The first 16 years of the century saw dramatic drops in deaths among children under five, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress has been made against malaria, measles and other communicable diseases, WHO said. Life expectancy has also increased thanks to advances against HIV/AIDS, which ravaged much of Africa in the 1990s. But despite progress in poorer countries, WHO said there remained significant life expectancy gaps between developed and developing nations.

People in low-income countries live 18 fewer years on average than those in high-income nations, statistics showed. In Lesotho, for instance, people on average live to be just 52, or 53 in the Central African Republic 53 years of age, compared to over 83 for Switzerland and over 84 in Japan. While most people who die in rich countries are old, nearly one in three deaths in poorer countries are children under five, WHO said.

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