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Pandemic death toll nearly 15 million, says WHO

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Some countries massively underreported Some countries massively underreported COVID-19 deaths

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the deaths of nearly 15 million people around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates.

The WHO believes many countries undercounted the numbers who died from COVID, with only 5.4 million were reported. In India, there were 4.7 million COVID deaths, it says - 10 times the official figures - and almost a third of Covid deaths globally.

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‘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.

‘WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.’

Most of the excess deaths (84%) are concentrated in South-East Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Some 68% of excess deaths are concentrated in just 10 countries globally. Middle-income countries account for 81% of the 14.9 million excess deaths (53% in lower-middle-income countries and 28% in upper-middle-income countries) over the 24-month period, with high-income and low-income countries each accounting for 15% and 4%, respectively.

‘Measurement of excess mortality is an essential component to understand the impact of the pandemic. Shifts in mortality trends provide decision-makers information to guide policies to reduce mortality and effectively prevent future crises. Because of limited investments in data systems in many countries, the true extent of excess mortality often remains hidden,’ said Dr Samira Asma, Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics and Delivery at WHO.

‘These new estimates use the best available data and have been produced using a robust methodology and a completely transparent approach.’

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