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Estimated 67% of COVID-19 Deaths in MENA Region, 55% Worldwide, Go Unreported
A medic looks at the bodies of two people who died from coronavirus-related complications at the Syrian American Medical Society hospital, Idlib, Syria, Sept. 19, 2021. (Anas Alkharboutli/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Estimated 67% of COVID-19 Deaths in MENA Region, 55% Worldwide, Go Unreported

Experts project that by January, the pandemic will have caused an estimated 1.3 million excess deaths in North Africa and the Middle East, 12.5 million worldwide

The novel coronavirus continues to ravage the world and has caused a reported 4.7 million deaths since the disease was first identified in December 2019.

This is the number of deaths officially reported to be due to COVID-19. But the actual number of fatal cases is known to be far higher. For example, where testing is inadequate, many people contract the disease and die without any official diagnosis. Those who don’t make it into the statistics because they never tested positive for the coronavirus before dying are thought to be the majority of fatalities in countries where testing is rare.

The concept of “excess deaths” gets around the problem of underreporting in official statistics by comparing the number of people who have died in a particular region and period to a historical baseline from recent years, and in some cases, also taking into consideration other factors known to be affecting the death rate compared to the historical average, such as war and famine. Thus, excess deaths are the number of deaths estimated to be due to COVID-19, including unreported deaths.

While the official worldwide death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 4.7 million, the number of excess deaths is estimated to be around 10.5 million.

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent population health research center at UW Medicine, part of the University of Washington, it is currently projected, based on reported deaths alone, that by January 2022, the reported worldwide death toll will be around 5.6 million.

This is based on a number of assumptions, such as vaccine distribution continuing at the expected pace, and continued use of masks at around the current rate. But in another, worse scenario, if for example vaccinated individuals stop wearing masks, mobility increases regardless of vaccine coverage, and the speed of the spread of variants doubles, the projected death toll could reach 6.5 million by January.

Projections based not on reported deaths but excess deaths show that by January, an estimated 12.5 million, or in a worse scenario 14.4 million, will have died from the disease.

The IHME has also looked at the death toll from COVID-19 in North Africa and the Middle East. Unlike The Media Line, it does not include in the region Afghanistan, Cyprus, Djibouti, Israel, Mauritania, Pakistan, Somalia, or Sudan. Thus, while The Media Line reports 362,770 deaths in the MENA region due to COVID, the IHME shows 326,000 reported deaths. It projects that by January, the region will see 402,000 deaths, or in a worse scenario 447,000 deaths.

Projections based not on reported deaths but excess deaths show that an estimated 982,000 people have already died, and by January, an estimated 1.3 million, or in a worse scenario 1.4 million, will have died in the MENA region from the disease.

Iran has experienced by far the highest reported cumulative COVID-19 death toll in the region –118,508 deaths over the course of the pandemic.

But relative to population size, Tunisia’s death toll has been far higher, with about 2,066 deaths per million people, compared to Iran’s 1,390 per million.

The IHME estimates that, based on excess deaths, Iran’s real death toll from COVID-19 is more like 285,000.

Iran now has 4.32 reported new deaths per day per million population based on a seven-day rolling average – currently the highest number of new deaths relative to population size in the region. This is followed by Tunisia (3.79), the Palestinian territories (3.06), Turkey (2.8) and Israel (2.27).

The concept of excess deaths is particularly important in countries like Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and Syria, where official statistics drastically underreport the actual situation. In Somalia, 1,079 people are reported to have died from the disease, while the IHME estimate of excess deaths is 3.8 times that number – 4,067. Yemen’s 1,664 reported COVID-19 deaths are only 23% of its estimated 7,220 excess deaths from the disease. Sudan reports 2,881 deaths from COVID-19 but is estimated to have actually experienced about 3.9 times as many excess deaths from the disease (11,122). Syria’s 2,158 reported deaths from the coronavirus are less than 30% of the 7,265 estimated excess deaths from the disease.

In Israel, nearly all COVID-19 deaths make it into the official statistics, so there is little difference between the reported number of COVID-19 deaths (7,602) and the estimated number of excess deaths (8,192) due to the disease.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 7:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.

 

CountryConfirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Afghanistan154,9607,198123,49724,265
Algeria202,2835,748138,50158,034
Bahrain274,5241,388272,387749
Cyprus117,75955190,75526,453
Djibouti12,25316211,838253
Egypt298,98817,043251,90230,043
Iran5,493,591118,5084,872,865502,218
Iraq1,987,35221,9931,882,59682,763
Israel1,253,7247,6021,180,40365,719
Jordan817,48710,645794,56912,273
Kuwait411,3162,442408,159715
Lebanon619,9508,253583,91027,787
Libya335,0554,569252,46378,023
Mauritania35,66176833,967926
Morocco925,50714,076893,27218,159
Oman303,5514,093295,1684,290
Pakistan1,232,59527,4321,143,60561,558
Palestinian Territories390,3693,968356,03130,370
Qatar235,907604233,7281,575
Saudi Arabia546,7928,684535,7832,325
Somalia19,2351,0799,2508,906
Sudan38,0772,88131,9523,244
Syria31,4262,15823,2236,045
Tunisia702,50324,654671,4886,361
Turkey6,960,29762,5246,432,743465,030
United Arab Emirates733,9722,083726,0355,854
Yemen8,8301,6645,4561,710
Total24,143,964362,77022,255,5461,525,648

 

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