stari ljudi.jpg
Photograph: freeimages.com/Alan Bull

The average length of human life has grown 5 years since the year 2000, the fastest increase seen since the 1960s, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday.

Global average life expectancy reached 71.4 years in 2015, according to the UN health agency's annual statistical report.

African countries saw the biggest increase. The average life span in the region expanded by 9.4 years to 60 years between 2000 and 2015.

This improvement was mainly due to improvements in child health, controlling the spread of malaria, and getting more antiretroviral medicine to people infected with HIV.

The gains since 2000 reverse downward trends during the 1990s, when the AIDS epidemic lowered life expectancy in Africa and Eastern Europe.

WHO pointed out, however, that progress has been uneven, and people born in poor countries still die much younger than those in rich countries.

In 29 high-income countries surveyed by WHO, newborns can expect to live until at least 80, while babies in 22 sub-Saharan African countries will die before the age of 60 on average.

"Supporting countries to move towards universal health coverage based on strong primary care is the best thing we can do to make sure no-one is left behind," WHO Director General Margaret Chan said.

Many African and Middle Eastern countries still have a long way to go to offer essential health services, according to WHO.

People in Sierra Leone have the world's lowest life expectancy. Women in the West African country live to 50.8 years on average, while men live to 49.3 years.

Women live the longest in Japan, where female life expectancy stands at 86.8 years.

Switzerland tops the men's ranking, with 81.3 years.

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