The recent study by the United Nation's Human Development Report has put Nigeria's life expectancy at birth at 48.4 years, a little rise from the 47.7 years recorded for the country last year.
The 2010 report, which was unveiled in Abuja recently, put Nigeria's Human Development Index (HDI) at 0.423, which ranked the country 142 out of 169 countries with comparable data. Nigeria did not make the very high Human Development rank, neither did it make the High Human Development rating. It was not also ranked among the countries that made it to the Medium Human Development strata.
Also, Nigeria found itself in the lowest ranking nations in the Low Human Development category, escaping from the bottom of the human development index by 27 positions.
The HDI of sub-Saharan Africa as a region increased from 0.293 in 1980 to 0.389 this year, placing Nigeria above the regional average. The HDI trends tell an important story both at the national and regional levels and highlight the very large gaps in well-being and life chances that continue to divide the world that has become interconnected.
Nigeria's expenditure on public health was put at 1.7 per cent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while under-five mortality stood at 186 out of every 1,000 live births.
Research has shown that all over the world human maximum lifespan potential or the maximum length of life that human beings can potentially attain is fixed at about 100 years. This is as true of Americans as it is of the British, French, Swedes, Japanese, Russians, Nigerians or any other nationality. Although it is inherent in all human beings to be able to live to about 100 years, only a very small number of people in any society reach this fixed maximum lifespan potential. This is because human beings invariably die prematurely, as a result of diseases, shootings, accidents or malnutrition. The more the incidence and prevalence of accidents and fatal diseases in a region the less the likelihood that inhabitants of that region will live out their biologically endowed fixed maximum lifespan potential.
In contrast to the fixed lifespan potential for humans, life expectancy or the actual number of years that an individual can hope to attain at birth is not fixed. It varies from country to country depending on social and economic variables.
It is in this regard that the apparent low life expectancy in Nigeria can be viewed. Nigeria's low life expectancy can be seen in the high mortality rate in the country. Maternal mortality refers to death resulting from pregnancy or child birth.
About 10 countries account for about two-thirds of the world's maternal mortality, with India contributing 22 percent or 117,000 deaths. Nigeria accounted for 10 percent of the deaths with 59,000 maternal deaths according to a 2005 study.
Lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related cause in the developing world is one out of 76 live births and in the industrialised world it is one out 8000 live births. In Niger Republic, it is one out of seven live births, the highest in the world. Nigeria is not much better with lifetime risk of one out of 13 live births. In Ireland the lifetime risk is one out of 47,600 live births.
For a country like Nigeria these figures give cause for concern. There is no other country with the amount of resources Nigeria has that has such grim statistics. Low life expectancy impacts on the nation because it retards a country's development. The onus lies on governments at all levels to put in put in place measures that will redress the situation.