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Excess mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic: a geospatial and statistical analysis in Mogadishu, Somalia

Terri Freemantle
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Catapult Co-Authors: Terri Freemantle, Yolanda Vazquez, Chris Reeve, 


Background – While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been well documented in high-income countries, much less is known about the health effects of the pandemic in Somalia where health systems are weak and vital registration is underdeveloped.

Methods – We used remote sensing and geospatial analysis to quantify the number of burials from January 2017 to September 2020 in Mogadishu. We imputed missing grave counts using surface area data. Simple interpolation and a generalised additive mixed growth model were used to predict both actual and counterfactual burial rates by cemetery and across Mogadishu during the most likely period of COVID-19 excess mortality and to compute excess burials. We also undertook a qualitative survey of key informants to determine the drivers of COVID-19 excess mortality.

Results – Burial rates increased during the pandemic period with a ratio to pre-pandemic levels averaging 1.5-fold and peaking at 2.2-fold. When scaled to plausible range of baseline Crude Death Rates (CDR), excess death toll between January and September 2020 ranged between 3,200 and 11,800. When compared to burial records of the Barakaat Cemetery Committee our estimates were found to be lower.

Conclusions – Our study points to considerable under estimation of the health effect of COVID-19 in Banadir and an overburdened public health system struggling to deal with the increasing severity of the epidemic in 2020.

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