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Health in Libya

Oil money has brought a rapid improvement in health. In 1960 life expectancy at birth was 46.7 years (47.9 for females and 45.5 for males), in 1970 it was 51.4 (53 for females and 50 for males), in 1990 it was 68 (70.4 for females and 65.8 for males), and in 2011 it was 75 (77.6 for females and 72.4 for males). 98 percent of children were inoculated against DPT and measles in 2010. In 2010, 97 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation; the incidence of tuberculosis was 40 per 100,000 people.

But the health system lacked investment. Public-health spending decreased from 5.5 percent of government expenditure in 1995 to 4 percent in 2010 and from 4.4 percent of GDP to 3.5 percent over the same period. The embargo contributed greatly to the neglect of hospitals and clinics. In 1997 there were 1.29 medical practitioners per 1,000 population. By 2009 this had risen to 1.9 per 1,000. Medical personnel used to be recruited from Arab and eastern European countries. Libyans preferred receiving medical treatment in Tunisia or Turkey. In 2010 the total health expenditure per capita was 713, 3.9 percent of GDP.

According to the World Health Organization (2013), the life expectancy at birth is 58 and 74 for males and females, respectively. Some of the risk factors are associated with Libya’s relative wealth: in 2008 high blood glucose among adults affected 14.5 percent of males and 14.4 percent of females; high blood pressure among adults affected 45.2 percent of males and 38.9 percent of females; 21.5 percent of males and 41.3 percent of females were obese; 47 percent of male adults (and a negligible number of females) smoked (among adolescents, 11 percent of males and 5 percent of females). Alcohol consumption was insignificant. These scores are higher than other countries in the region; in Morocco, for example, high blood glucose was 10.6 percent for males and 10.9 for females, high blood pressure was 34.0 for males and 37.6 for females, adult obesity was 11.1 percent for males and 23.1 for females, and 33 percent of adult males and 2 percent of adult females smoked.

The mortality rate for children under five years is 17 per 1,000 live births for both sexes, which is low compared to the regional average of 68 and the global average of 57. World Bank data for 2012 estimated the average infant death rate at 13.

HIV is an increasing problem, particularly among immigrants from sub-Saharan African countries, where HIV infection is one of the main causes of death. By the end of 2006, the World Health Organization reported 10,450 people as HIV-positive, but experts estimate the actual number of HIV patients is much higher.

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