44% of the population in Africa still suffering from oral diseases-report

According to WHO African Region, despite the innovative measures, Africa has had the largest increase in cases of major oral diseases in the past 30 years of WHO's six regions.

Oral health remains a neglected part of person-centred health care and wellbeing. As the world commemorates the International World Oral Health Day, oral diseases such as dental caries, gum diseases, and tooth loss, remain prevalent in the WHO African Region, affecting about 44% of the population.

According to WHO African Region, despite the innovative measures, Africa has had the largest increase in cases of major oral diseases in the past 30 years of WHO’s six regions.

In her World Oral Health Day message for 2024, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti highlighted that the good news is most oral diseases are preventable through controlling common risk factors, like avoiding the use of tobacco and alcohol, adopting a healthy diet low in free sugar, and brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day.

“The neglect of oral health in the WHO African Region is obvious in the level of under-investment. For instance, half of the countries in the WHO African Region lack oral health policies. In 2019, over 70% of the countries of the region spent less than one US dollar per person per year on treatment costs for oral health care,” she said.

Moeti added that there is a chronic deficit of the oral health workforce in the region, for example, having only 0.33 dentists per 10,000 population, is now a mere tenth of the global average.

WHO Africa regional teams according to Moeti, continue to invest in strengthening countries’ capacities for oral health promotion, oral disease prevention and control, as they integrate this as part of NCDs prevention and control, into national health services delivery systems towards universal health coverage.

Moeti noted, “We commend Burkina Faso, Lesotho, Mali, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone for developing and implementing national oral health policies in 2023. We acknowledge the trail-blazing leadership of Nigeria and 14 other African countries among the 32 globally that resulted in the December 2023 official recognition of noma as one of the neglected tropical diseases,”

She commended the work of the over 4,400 health professionals and community actors in 11 noma priority countries, that leveraged the WHO noma online course to enhance their capacities for the promotion of oral health, detection, and control of early stages of noma and referring to the same in 2023.

“We applaud the resilience of the over 5,800 healthcare and non-healthcare workers, as of 29 February 2024, who embraced the online course on oral health for community health workers,”

WHO Africa region acknowledges the support of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Nairobi in bringing together more than 70 delegates, from the academia and ministries of health to the meeting on “Evidence to policy: Accelerating the implementation of the regional and global strategies on oral health in the WHO African Region”

During this 2024 World Oral Health Day, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti calls on multilateral and bilateral stakeholders, and the non-health sector and the private sector, to join hands with ministries of health in driving a multi-sectoral response to the region’s silent epidemic of oral diseases.

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