YAOUNDE, Cameroon 

African nations do not have reliable data on births, deaths and their causes, the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa office said Thursday.

The absence of the crucial information complicates effective health responses and policy-making in the African region, said the WHO.

“Cause of death data are critically important because they define our public health interventions,” according to Benson Droti, head of the Health Information Systems team at the African regional office. “Not having these statistics available jeopardizes the effectiveness of health interventions across the region.”

The UN health agency said it recently held virtual training for health professionals from 42 African nations on medical certification regarding the causes of deaths and the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases.

In May 2019, the World Health Assembly endorsed revisions to the International Classification of Diseases and recommended all countries adopt by January 2022.

It said a recent WHO assessment found just four countries in the region register more than 90% of deaths, as most are unable to provide timely insights into population growth and patterns across the regions of a country, as well as when, where and why people die.

“[In South Africa] we’re trying to assess the effect of COVID-19. If you don’t count [deaths] accurately, then you don’t know what’s going on and it’s hard to plan and harder to respond,” said Lyn Hamner, co-head of the WHO Family of International Classification Collaborating Centre in South Africa.

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