Non-communicable diseases such as heart, respiratory and lung diseases, and cancers were the leading causes of death in 2019 globally, according to the World Health Organisation.
However, people in low-income countries are still more likely to die of a communicable or infectious disease such as malaria, HIV/Aids or diarrhoeal diseases than a non-communicable disease (NCD). According to the WHO this is because of delays in adopting preventative measures like improvement of environmental conditions where the pathogens related to these diseases thrive.
However, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids are killing fewer people. For example, HIV/Aids, caused 59 per cent fewer deaths in 2019 than in 2000. Last year at least 161,000 people died of HIV compared with 395,000 in 2000 according to WHO’s The top 10 causes of death in 2019 report released recently.
Deaths from HIV/Aids have fallen by 51 percent during the past 20 years, moving from the world’s eighth leading cause of death in 2000 to the 19th in 2019.
Diarrhoeal diseases like cholera and dysentery are more significant as a cause of death in low-income countries ranking in the top five causes of death. Nonetheless, diarrhoeal diseases are decreasing in low-income countries, with global deaths falling from 2.6 million people in 2000 to 1.5 million people in 2019.
In low-income countries, neonatal conditions remained the biggest killers in 2019, even though these reduced marginally around the globe. According to WHO data at least 2.4 million newborns (under 28 days) died in 2019, due to preterm birth complications, birth asphyxia, pneumonia, congenital anomalies, diarrhoea and malaria, compared with 3.2 million in 2000.
In lower middle-income countries, diabetes is a rising cause of death, having moved from the 15th in 2000 to ninth leading cause of death last year, claiming 1.3 million lives in 2019 compared with 700,000 in 2000.
WHO says the routine collection and analysis of high-quality data on deaths and their causes, as well as data on disability, disaggregated by age, sex and geographical location, is essential for improving health and reducing deaths and disability across the world.
“It is important to know why people die to improve how people live. Measuring how many people die each year helps to assess the effectiveness of our health systems and directs resources to where they are needed most. Mortality data can help focus activities and resource allocation among sectors such as transportation, food and agriculture, and the environment as well as health,” said WHO.
However, the organisation said there are inherent fragmentations in data collection systems in most low-income countries, where policy-makers can’t confidently say how many people died and of what.
In response to the gap in mortality data collection, WHO has partnered with global actors to launch Revealing the Toll of Covid-19- Technical Package for Rapid Mortality Surveillance and Epidemic Response.