FACT CHECK: Is it true that Nigeria’s life expectancy is responsible for low COVID-19 mortality? | Dailytrust

FACT CHECK: Is it true that Nigeria’s life expectancy is responsible for low COVID-19 mortality?

Second wave of COVID-19 pandemic

Several social media users have claimed that Nigeria’s low life expectancy has been responsible for the low COVID-19 mortality recorded in the country. 

Data from the Coronavirus Resource Centre of John Hopkins University show that as at May 30, 2021, Nigeria had recorded 166,285 cases of COVID-19, out of which there have been 2,071 deaths.

 

The claim

Some social media users in Nigeria claim that the low COVID-19 deaths recorded in Nigeria have been due to the country’s low life expectancy. This claim may have been accentuated by media coverage of fatalities from the disease that less deaths are recorded in Africa than projected.

The World Health Organisation defines life expectancy as the average number of years that a newborn could expect to live, if he or she were to pass through life exposed to the sex- and age-specific death rates prevailing at the time of his or her birth, for a specific year, in a given country, territory, or geographic area.

For instance, on June 1, 2020, StatiSense, tweeted via its handle, @StatiSense, about low COVID-19 deaths in Nigeria compared to Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Italy.

Responding to the tweet, a Twitter user, Olamide Eyinla, claimed via his handle, that is due to low reporting of cases and “low life expectancy, so a small group aged 60 years and above.”

Similarly, a Facebook user, Jaafar Lawan, also claimed in a post on May 30, 2020, that low COVID-19 deaths in Nigeria and some African countries is largely due to low life expectancy.

“The ages below these averages of life expectancy have relatively good immune systems and low numbers of patients with co-morbidities such as diabetes mellitus, asthma and heart diseases compared with those over 70 years,” he claimed.

Even the mainstream media in Nigeria spread this claim to justify low COVID-19 deaths in Nigeria.

For instance, a national newspaper reported on September 19, 2020, that “Public health experts say that, because life expectancy is so low in these countries, there are fewer older people, who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. And with younger populations, fewer people are dying from the disease or falling ill enough to be hospitalised.”

This claim may have impacted the acceptance of COVID-19 vaccination in Nigeria.

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency revealed that as at May 29, 2021, only 1,952,694 eligible Nigerians have been vaccinated with first dose while 44,220 of Nigerians have been vaccinated with first dose have collected their second doses.

Programme Officer, FCT Immunization Services, Mrs. Salome Tor said people are avoiding COVID-19 vaccination. But how true is the claim that Nigeria’s low life expectancy is the reason the country has recorded low COVID-19 deaths?

 

Verification

To make sense of the claim, a comparative analysis of Nigeria’s COVID-19 Case Fatality Rate (CFR) and Fatality Per Capita were juxtaposed with five countries with the highest life expectancy rates and another five countries with the lowest life expectancy rates.

CFR measures the proportion of coronavirus deaths per confirmed coronavirus cases to show the severity of the disease while fatality per capita measures the number of fatalities relative to the country’s population.

Wordometer ranked the following five countries with high rates of life expectancy (Hong Kong and Macao, ranked first and third respectively, were excluded due to unavailable COVID-19 mortality data on John Hopkins resource): Japan (85.03 percent), Switzerland (84.25 percent), Singapore (84.07 percent), Italy (84.01 percent) and Spain (83.99 percent).

The countries with the lowest life expectancy are Central African Republic (54.36 percent), Chad (55.17 percent), Lesotho (55.65 percent), Nigeria (55.75 percent) and Sierra Leone (55.92 percent).

 

Coronavirus Case Fatality Rate (CFR)

Data from John Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre show that as at May 30, 2021, Japan had recorded 742,539 cases wih 12,877 deaths, translating to 1.73 percent CFR; Switzerland recorded 693,023 cases with 10,805 deaths, translating to 1.56 percent CFR while Singapore recorded 62,003 cases with 32 deaths, being 0.052 percent CFR.

Within the same period, Italy recorded 4,213,055 cases with 126,002 deaths, being 2.99 percent CFR while Spain recorded 3,668,658 cases with 79,905 deaths, translating to 0.02 percent CFR.

Comparatively, within the same period, Central African Republic recorded 7,085 cases with 98 deaths, translating to 1.38 percent CFR; Chad recorded 4,928 cases with173 deaths, translating to 3.51 percent while Lesotho recorded 10,825 cases with 326 deaths, reflecting 3.01 percent CFR.

Nigeria recorded 166,285 with 2,071 deaths, being 1.25 percent CFR while Sierra Leone had 4,141 cases with 79 deaths, being 1.91 percent CFR.

Analysis showed that the five countries with high life expectancy rates had 1.27 percent mean CFR while countries with low life expectancy rates had 2.21 percent mean CFR.

Since the lower the case fatality ratio, the better,  data show that the five countries with lower life expectancy rates recorded more deaths per confirmed cases than the five countries with high life expectancy.

However, it was observed that Nigeria’s 1.25 CFR is around the region of the 1.27 percent mean CFR of countries with high life expectancy rates.

This means that despite Nigeria’s low life expectancy ratio, patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases stand high risk of dying.

 

Coronavirus Fatality Per Capita

Furthermore, a comparison of coronavirus fatality per capita was also adopted to have a clearer perspective.

Analysis showed that the five countries with the highest life expectancy rates recorded more COVID-19 deaths per capita than the five countries with the lowest life expectancy rates in the world.

Analysis showed that Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Italy and Spain recorded 0.103 percent mean COVID-19 deaths per capita while Central African Republic, Chad, Lesotho, Nigeria and Sierra Leone recorded 0.005 percent mean deaths per capita.

Disaggregated, data as at June 30, 2021, show that Japan with a population of 126.13 million has 0.01 percent coronavirus deaths per capita, Switzerland with a population of 8.71 million has 0.01 percent deaths per capita, Singapore with a population of 5.89 million has 0.005 percent deaths per capita, Italy has 60.38 million population and 0.21 percent per capita mortality while Spain has 46.77 million population and 0.17 percent per capita mortality.

Coronavirus per capita deaths for the countries were determined by dividing the number of deaths by the population of each of the countries.

Comparatively, Central African Republic with 4.91 million population has 0.002 percent per capita deaths, Chad with 16.88 million has 0.001 percent per capita deaths, Lesotho with 2.16 million population has recorded 0.02 percent per capita deaths, Nigeria with 211 million population has 0.001 percent per capita deaths while Sierra Leone with 8.13 million population has 0.001 percent per capita deaths from coronavirus disease.

This shows that Nigeria’s 0.001 percent COVID-19 deaths per capita rate is less than the average of 0.103 percent for the five countries with high life expectancy.

However, it should be noted that Nigeria’s per capita mortality rate is less than Singapore’s 0.005 percent mortality per capita despite having one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

 

Conclusion 

The claim that low COVID-19 mortality in Nigeria is due to the country’s low life expectancy is misleading. Evidence shows that Nigeria’s COVID-19 fatalities per capita is lower than that of Singapore with one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

Besides, Nigeria’s 1.25 Case Fatality Rate is around the region of the 1.27 percent average Case Fatality Rate of countries with high life expectancy rates.

This means that despite Nigeria’s low life expectancy ratio, patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases stand high risk of dying.

Evidently, data from Worldometer and John Hopkins University show that Brazil with a population of 214 million people, which is slightly higher than the number of people living in Nigeria, has recorded 461,057 deaths from COVID-19 as at May 30, 2021, translating to 0.22 percent mortality rate of the country’s total population.

This means that, though Nigeria and Brazil have almost the same size of population, Brazil’s COVID-19 deaths have doubled the number recorded in Nigeria.

This report was produced as part of IWPR’s Africa Resilience Network (ARN)programme, administered in partnership with the Centre for Information Resilience(CIR), the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) and Africa Uncensored. For more information on ARN, please visit the ARN site