Global Health Asia-Pacific May 2022 May 2022 - Page 34

Medical News

Will we ever know the true global death toll from COVID-19 ?

It ’ s three times the official number , says the WHO

The World Health Organization

( WHO ) has estimated that about 15 million deaths could be directly or indirectly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic between January 2020 and December 2021 .
The number is much higher than reported COVID-19 deaths , which stand at about 5.4 million , and captures excess mortality , or the difference between how many people actually passed away and those who were expected to die without the pandemic , based on data from past years .
“ These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises , including stronger health information systems ,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus , WHO Director-General , in a press release . “ WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes .”
In addition to the deaths caused by COVID-19 , the estimate comprises the number of people who died because of the pandemic ’ s impact on health systems , as many people succumbed to conditions that couldn ’ t be prevented or treated due to overburdened health workers . The WHO ’ s estimate is also influenced by the number of deaths avoided during the pandemic , thanks to decreased chances of things like car accidents or occupational injuries .
Most of the additional deaths , or 84 percent of them , occurred in Southeast Asia , Europe , and the Americas , with middle-income countries recording the vast majority of them . Men were affected more than women and make up 57 percent of the deceased .
“ Measurement of excess mortality is an essential component to understand the impact of the pandemic . Shifts in mortality trends provide decisionmakers information to guide policies to reduce mortality and effectively prevent future crises ,” said Dr Samira Asma , Assistant Director-General for Data ,
Analytics and Delivery at the WHO , in the press release .
In India , the true death toll reached 4.7 million , or ten times the official figures , but the Indian government has questioned the estimate , reported the BBC .
Other countries with high excess deaths include Russia , Indonesia , the US , Brazil , Mexico , and Peru , while those that recorded low additional mortality are China , Australia , Japan , and Norway .
However , the authors of the estimate said their data were less reliable for countries in sub-Saharan Africa as little information has been available on how many people died in the region .
“ We urgently need better data collection systems . It is a disgrace that people can be born and die - and we have no record of their passing ,” statistician Professor Jon Wakefield from Seattle ’ s University of Washington , who helped the WHO , told the BBC . “ So we really need to invest in countries ’ registration systems so we can get accurate and timely data .”
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