WHO marks 70th anniversary and World Health Day amid some optimism | Science | In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 07.04.2018

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WHO marks 70th anniversary and World Health Day amid some optimism

Despite concerns such as those about pollution-related disease, it's not all doom and gloom when it comes to world health. On World Health Day, DW takes a look at some of the advances that have been achieved so far.

April 7 is not just World Health Day: this year, it also marks the 70th anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Established in 1948, the WHO was the first specialized United Nations body to which all members subscribed. Today, the WHO is involved in many health-related projects globally, with the aim of achieving universal health coverage. 

When it comes to global health, there are many aspects in need of improvement. But it's not all bad news.

Maternal mortality has decreased by over 40 percent

Since 1990, the number of women who die during or shortly after giving birth has declined globally. However, in some regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, there is still need for further improvement.

Maternal mortality ratio is the number of women who die from pregnancy-related causes while pregnant or within 42 days of pregnancy termination per 100,000 livebirths

Corresponding to the decline in maternal mortality, the global child mortality rate has more than halved over the past 30 years.

Child mortality rate per 1,000 live births

People are living longer

While life expectancy in Africa is still 20 years behind that of Europe, the past 30 years have seen Africans living eight years longer than previous generations. It's impressive to see how life expectancy globally has increased since the beginning of the last century.

HIV/AIDS deaths declining

Since 1997, the number of newly diagnosed HIV infections has declined. Nearly 4 million people died as a result of the immune deficiency syndrome in 2005-2006. A decade later, 36.7 million people globally are living with HIV/AIDS. Fortunately, a number of them have access to antiretroviral treatments.

Deaths from HIV/AIDS by age group

Greater access to clean drinking water 

Clean drinking water is key in preventing infectious diseases like cholera and diphtheria. Over the past 30 years, the number of people dying as a result of drinking unsafe water has declined globally. India and sub-Saharan Africa still urgently need greater investment and infrastructure to ensure locals have access to clean drinking water. 

Death rate attributed to an unsafe water source

Vaccinations saving millions of lives

Polio once threatened the lives of children all over the world. Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine in the 1950s, and it has undergone several improvements since then. As a result of widespread vaccination against the disease, the number of reported paralytic polio cases decreased from more than 60,000 per year to just 42 cases globally in 2016.

The number of reported paralytic polio cases by world region