Government’s HIV/AIDS programme is bearing fruit, with fewer deaths now than in 2006. And older people are now dying, not young people in the prime of their lives, according to the Census released yesterday.
The majority of the deaths recorded by the Census were due to natural causes, with just 9.6% of them attributed to unnatural causes. However, the number of people dying in South Africa has decreased since 2006. Statisticians believe that the majority of deaths prior to 2006 were related to the AIDS epidemic and that the onset of the government’s AIDS treatment programme has reduced the mortality figures.
“It looks to me that we have turned the corner, probably, in the face of availability of anti-retrovirals and Nevirapine and all these other things that are causing life to be longer. And, of course, recent studies did indicate that new infections of HIV and AIDS have actually declined, particularly amongst the youth”, according to Pali Lehohla, Statistics South Africa’s Statistician-General.
Deaths are now increasing in older age groups as opposed to among younger people. It is hard to state that AIDS was the cause of the majority of deaths prior to 2006 because AIDS was not a notifiable cause of death, says Stats SA. But tuberculosis, a close ally of HIV infection, has been the number one killer of South Africans, accounting for more than half the country’s mortality.
“When you look at the sex and age structure of the deaths when mortality was increasing, it was particularly increasing in the reproductive ages – 20 to 40. That is where we see most of the decrease”, says Stats SA’s Maletela Tuoane-Khase, explaining the changes in the death patterns.
“A lot of people attributed the increase to the number of deaths as a result of HIV/AIDS, which could be possible. But we have a number of other causes of death, like if you look at the causes of death statistics, the leading cause of death will be Tuberculosis. But when we see the decline we see the decline in the specific age groups where there was an increase. Now when you look at where the number of deaths is increasing, it’s increasing at older ages, which is where you expect people to die. But the decrease is mainly at the young reproductive ages – 20 to 40 – and, particularly among females. You see a lot of decrease in mortality among females”, she adds.
Accepting the findings of the census, President Jacob Zuma admitted that the country has to do more to provide basic services such as access to electricity, water and housing. These have a direct impact on the safety and quality of life of people.
“The usage of electricity as a main source for cooking has increased from 45% to 73%. However, the use of paraffin still remains at 7.5% of all households as their main source of energy. We know the dangers of this type of energy, especially for those of us who live in shack settlements, constituting almost 13% of households in South Africa. The use of the bucket toilet system has been halved from 3.9% in 2001 to 1.9% in 2011. Much effort still needs to go into providing toilet facilities to some communities in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.
The Eastern Cape showed an increase in households residing in formal housing from 47.6% in 1996 to 61.8% in 2011. However, the province still lags behind the rest of the provinces”, Zuma said in his acceptance speech.
It is hoped that the findings of the census will help government to forecast and plan better in allocating financial and other resources to improve the living conditions of South Africans. In other key findings, the population of South Africa has increased to over 51 million from 40.5 million people in 1996. This means the government must increase resources accordingly to cater for the resultant growth in needs such as health and other services. The largest growth in population figures is in Gauteng, which has overtaken KwaZulu-Natal as the most populous of the nine provinces.
“The growth is largely in Gauteng where we see two million people higher than in KwaZulu-Natal. In the last 10 years, Gauteng has gained in the region of about four million people. There has been a phenomenal population growth there due to migration, particularly from other provinces and from outside the country. KwaZulu-Natal is at 10.2 million. It has grown marginally by about 500 000”, explains the Statistician-General, Pali Lehohla.