Excess deaths -the difference between the number of recorded deaths from all causes and the number expected based on past trends – are a key measure of the true full death toll of the pandemic.
While just 10 countries had 68 per cent of excess deaths, South-East Asia, Europe, and the Americas together accounted for most of the excess deaths (84 per cent).
Of the total deaths, middle-income countries accounted for 81 per cent, lower-middle-income countries for 53 per cent and upper-middle-income countries 28 per cent over the 24-month period. High-income and low-income countries each accounted for 15 per cent and 4 per cent, respectively.
“These sobering data not only points 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 statement.
The estimates also confirm that the global death toll was higher for men (57 per cent) than for women (43 per cent) and higher among older adults.
In March, an analysis published in The Lancet showed that the global Covid-19 death toll may be more than three times higher than what the official pandemic death records suggest.
According to official Covid death records, 0.59 crore people died between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021. But the new study estimated 1.82 crore excess deaths occurred over the same period, and India alone accounted for an estimated 22 per cent of the global total deaths.
“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, in the statement.
“These new estimates use the best available data and have been produced using a robust methodology and a completely transparent approach,” she added.