The years 2020 and 2021 have been marked by three times higher global excess mortality compared to previous years, says a study by the World Health Organization (WHO). Deaths linked directly or indirectly to the Covid-19 pandemic would be three times higher than those recorded worldwide, five times higher than those recorded in Africa.

Understated numbers

The number of official deaths would represent only a reduced count of the total number of deaths due to the pandemic and its health consequences, according to a study by the WHO. Thus, for the years 2020 and 2021, the mortality linked directly or indirectly to Covid-19 would amount to around 15 million worldwide, i.e. three times the officially announced figure. And Africa is no exception. Over the period, the number of Africans who died from Covid would amount to 1.24 million according to the WHO, five times more than the 229,197 deaths officially listed by the African office of the African Union (CDC). Many deaths attributable to Covid-19 have escaped the statistics because no tests were carried out before or after death.

This excess mortality is measured in particular by comparing the number of deaths for the years 2020 and 2021 with the data for the previous ten years. But African statistics are often incomplete: “Only five countries were able to provide consolidated data, 42 do not have enough and a few not at all. We are therefore facing a real difficulty in modeling, which could raise fears of a greater number of these hidden deaths”says William Msemburi, an analyst at the WHO.

The pandemic has slowed the fight against HIV, malaria, tuberculosis

“The shortcomings revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic indicate that one of the crucial challenges of the years to come will be to strengthen health information systems, everywhere in the world, in order to be able to better protect and prevent.”

Doctor Samira Asma, in charge of the statistics file


Other explanations for the phenomenon given by the WHO study: interrupted vaccination campaigns for other diseases and restricted access to certain treatments and drugs. The pandemic has seriously hampered the fight against HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and measles.

On the continent, the figures suggest that Africans have died as much from Covid-19 itself as from its health consequences. With 47,000 additional cases of malaria in 2020, we can hypothesize that deaths from Covid could have been counted as malaria-related mortality.


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