All 54 African countries put together have registered fewer Covid deaths than France. That doesn’t mean people aren’t dying from the virus.
LAGOS, Nigeria — Christopher Johnson was known for two things. His enthusiastic dancing in the street, which made everyone laugh. And his habit of hurling insults at strangers, which constantly got him into trouble.
So when Mr. Johnson died in late September, probably of sepsis after a leg injury, according to friends, everyone in Oluti, his lively neighborhood in Nigeria’s biggest city, heard.
Everyone, that is, except the government registrar responsible for recording deaths.
As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the world in 2020, it became increasingly evident that in the vast majority of countries on the African continent, most deaths are never formally registered. Reliable data on a country’s deaths and their causes are hard to come by, which means governments can miss emerging health threats — whether Ebola or the coronavirus — and often have to formulate health policy blindly.