/ 19 November 2009

SA life expectancy decreases

International comparisons show that the average South African will not live longer than 50 years, the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) said on Thursday.

According to its latest South Africa Survey, the country was one of only six out of a group of 37 developed and developing countries that had a decreasing life expectancy between 1990 and 2007.

”South Africa’s life expectancy decreased from 62 years in 1990 to 50 years in 2007,” the SAIRR said.

Only Zimbabwe had a worse trend for life expectancy, it said.

According to the survey, in 2009, average life expectancy at birth for South Africans was 51 years.

Between 2001 and 2006 the life expectancy was 51 years for males, and 55 years for females.

”This is expected to decrease between 2006 and 2011 to 48 years for males and 51 years for females,” the SAIRR said.

KwaZulu-Natal had the lowest life expectancy at birth in 2009 at 43 years, followed by the Free State and Mpumalanga at 47 years each.

According to the survey, these three provinces also had some of the highest HIV prevalence rates at 16%, 14% and 14% respectively.

Fewer children
It also emerged in the survey that South African women are having fewer children

There were an average of 2,7 live births per 1 000 women between 2001 and 2006 and this was projected to decline to 2,4 between 2008 and 2011.

Along with fewer births, there had also been an increase in the number of deaths from HIV/Aids. Almost half of all deaths in 2008 were HIV/Aids related, an increase from a third of all deaths in 2001.

This followed an increase in the HIV-positive population, from 9% in 2001 to 12% in 2008.

”The survey shows that in SA the spread of HIV/Aids as well as lower fertility rates has led to a declining population growth rate,” said SAIRR researcher Gail Eddy.

Between 2007 and 2008, the country’s population grew at a rate of 0,8%.

”This is compared to a higher population growth rate of 1,5% between 2001 and 2002.

”The 43% reduction in the population growth rate over seven years highlights the extent to which the HIV/Aids pandemic is affecting the SA population.”

Orphans, child-headed households on the increase
Statistics in the survey show that by 2015 32% of all children in the country would have lost one or both parents due to HIV/Aids.

”As HIV/Aids continues to affect the life-spans of parents, more and more children are going to be orphaned,” Eddy said.

In 2007, the SAIRR noted that about 2 500 000 children in South Africa had lost one or both parents, with more than half of all of these deaths a result of HIV/Aids.

Between 2002 and 2007, the number children who had lost both their parents doubled from 352 000 to 701 000.

KwaZulu-Natal, the province with the highest HIV/Aids infection rate, also had the highest number of orphans in 2007 at 229 000, the survey found.

The number of child-headed households had also risen as a result of the HIV/Aids pandemic.

According to the survey, between 2002 and 2007 the number of children living in child-headed households rose by 25% to 148 000 from 118 000.

Eddy said there were limited safety nets for orphaned children.

”The Department of Social Development has a budget which is geared towards the delivery of social grants, such as child support grants.

”However, vulnerable children need additional support that is not necessarily monetary in nature as these children have also lost their primary care-giver.”

She said that South Africa had a shortage of social workers responsible for identifying vulnerable children. — Sapa