The World Health Organisation (WHO) says life expectancy for men and women has increased from 46 to 73 years globally.
Speaking during an online media conference on Friday, the WHO Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said people in the poorest countries have a better chance of longer lives.
Ghebreyesus said malaria has been eradicated in 42 countries across the world, adding that smallpox has been eliminated, while polio is on the verge of being surmounted.
He said HIV and Tuberculosis “have been pushed back” while 47 countries have eliminated “at least one neglected tropical disease”.
Ghebreyesus said smoking has also declined by a third in the past 20 years, while maternal mortality has been reduced by a third, and child mortality by half.
The WHO chief said new vaccines for Ebola and malaria have been produced and licensed in the past five years.
He said there is an improvement in access to basic services, adding that environment, age and gender contributed to the inaccessibility of essential health benefits.
He added that about half of the world’s population still has no access to some health services such as family planning, basic sanitation, or access to a health worker.
“And for the past three years, WHO has coordinated the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic – the most severe health crisis in a century,” he added.
“We can’t claim sole credit for these achievements, but we have played a leading role in all of them. Partnering with many partners, especially our member states.
“And although we have many achievements of which to be proud, we still face many challenges – some old, some new.
“Around the world, people still face vast disparities in access to health services, between and within countries and communities.
“Meanwhile, since 2000, the number of people who experience financial hardship from out-of-pocket health spending has increased by a third, to almost two billion.
“Noncommunicable diseases now account for more than 70 per cent of all deaths globally. Rates of diabetes and obesity have increased dramatically, driven by unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.
“Progress against malaria and TB has stalled, antimicrobial resistance threatens to unwind a century of medical progress.
“Air pollution and climate change are jeopardizing the very habitability of our planet.
“And as COVID-19 has exposed so brutally, there remain serious gaps in the world’s defences against epidemics and pandemics.”
Ghebreyesus added that the world needs the WHO now more than ever.