Dead reckoning - the need for data
on mortality rates in Africa
What do we know
about mortality rates in Africa? How has HIV affected death rates? Do we
have enough data to answer these questions? Research from the London
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine investigates mortality rates in
Africa. More and better demographic data are essential to help
governments develop policy in response to the HIV epidemic.
in sub-Saharan Africa are higher than in the other world regions. Trends
in the 1970s and 80s suggested that mortality rates were declining in a
number of African countries, but by the end of the 80s they had begun to
rise again. This was due to various factors, including economic
difficulties, conflict and the spread of HIV.
reviews the available data for both child and adult mortality in Africa.
Africa remains a
high mortality region, but rates vary across the continent, making it
difficult to generalise. For example, in the mid-1980s, countries in
western Africa had some of the lowest and highest mortality rates.
The trend towards
a decline in mortality rates was reversed during the 1980s in parts of
Africa. Economic crises have been a factor in this, but the long-term
failure to develop human resources is probably at the root of this
reversal in most of Africa.
Data on HIV are
only available for the early stages of the epidemic. Even then, HIV
had a dramatic impact on mortality in several African countries. In
many countries, AIDS mortality will overwhelm the progress made in the
control of infectious diseases during the last half-century.
In general, the
availability of data for the study of mortality in Africa has improved
during the last five years, but there are still large gaps. For example,
there are little data on mortality in two of the most populous
countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia. Generally,
more data are available on child mortality than on adults.
The findings of this
report have the following implications for policy:
It is imperative
to make the best use of existing demographic data. They provide a
unique source of vital information about the HIV epidemic.
Analyses of these
data should be integrated into national policy and planning processes.
for collecting data on adult mortality are required.
recognise the importance of adult mortality data for programme
‘Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa’ by I. Timaeus, in 'Health and
mortality: issues of global concern. Proceedings of the symposium on
health and mortality, Brussels, 19-22 November 1997' CBGS and UN
Population Division (1999)
Related references: 'Adult mortality in the era of AIDS' by I. Timaeus
in 'The African population in the 21st century: third African population
conference, Durban, South Africa, vol 2' (1999) "The impact of
HIV/AIDS on adult mortality in South Africa" by R.
Dorrington et al., Burden of Disease Research Unit Technical Report,
Medical Research Council, South Africa (2001)
23 November 2001
Centre for Population Studies
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London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
The CDC provides global morbidity and mortality data.
UNDP also has information on HIV/AIDS.