The World Health Organization said on Friday that the first two years of Covid-19 cost nearly 337 million lives, with the pandemic causing millions of premature deaths.
In doing so, the World Health Organization highlighted the devastating impact of the health crisis caused by the pandemic, which in 2020 and 2021 alone caused the loss of 336.8 million life years worldwide.
“It’s like losing 22 years of life for every additional death,” Samira Asma, the organization’s deputy director for data and analysis, told reporters.
This calculation is based on data available in 2022. Since then, the number of deaths has continued to rise, albeit at a slower pace, prompting the World Health Organization to abandon adoption of the highest health alert level, while warning that Covid is still spreading.
The official death toll attributed to the disease, which is regularly updated by the World Health Organization, is 6.9 million as of 17 May.
However, several countries did not provide reliable data to the organization, which estimates that the pandemic has claimed nearly three times the number of victims recorded in three years, or at least 20 million deaths.
They base this number on calculating excess deaths, which is defined as the difference between the actual number of deaths and the estimated number of deaths in the absence of a pandemic.
The number of 20 million includes direct deaths from Covid, as well as deaths related to the impact of the pandemic on health systems.
Friday’s report highlighted “significant disparities behind the distribution of COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as access to vaccines.”
The World Health Organization has also warned that the pandemic has changed the trends of many health-related indicators, after they had improved over the years.
During the first two decades of the century, the world saw significant improvements in maternal and child health, with deaths falling by a third and a half, respectively, according to the report. The incidence of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria has also significantly decreased, as has the risk of premature death from non-communicable diseases.
Combined, these factors helped push life expectancy from 67 years in 2000 to 73 years in 2019, globally. However, after the outbreak of the pandemic, existing inequalities widened and the observed positive trend was reversed for diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, among others.
The study showed that while the world is still making progress in the field of health in general, the percentage of deaths caused by non-communicable diseases has increased year after year.
In 2000, about 61 percent of global deaths annually were related to non-communicable diseases. By 2019, that percentage had risen to about 74 percent.
“If this trend continues, non-communicable diseases are expected to cause 86 percent of the 90 million annual deaths by mid-century,” the WHO said in a statement.
“The report sends a clear message about the threat of non-communicable diseases, which cause massive and increasing deaths,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
He said the findings show the need for “a significant increase in investments in health and in health systems to get back on track towards the Sustainable Development Goals”.
The WHO said deaths from non-communicable diseases are increasing despite reduced exposure to many health risks, including tobacco use and alcohol consumption, and unclean water and unsafe sanitation.
She added that exposure to other risks such as air pollution remained high. In particular, the report warns that the prevalence of obesity is increasing, with no sign of a change in trend.