FACTSHEET: Africa’s leading causes of death

Researched by Petrie Jansen van Vuuren

The World Health Organisation’s most recent data on global deaths has good news for the African continent, including fewer people dying of HIV/AIDS and malaria. The bad news is that deaths due to lifestyle factors are on the rise.


The World Health Organisation recently updated its death statistics, which now reflect 2015 data. When Africa Check last reviewed the continent’s leading causes of death, the terrifying Ebola virus was making international headlines, despite the crisis contributing a relatively small portion of total African deaths.

By the time the West African pandemic ended in 2016, 11,300 people had died from Ebola. But the new WHO data shows it is the ailments we may consider more commonplace that actually claim the most lives in Africa.


9.2 million deaths from all causes in 2015

To shed more light on the continent’s leading causes of death, it is necessary to place these large figures into context. The UN estimated the region’s 2015 population at close to 1 billion and in that year, some 9.2 million deaths were registered. (Note: WHO’s Africa region consists of 47 of 54 countries on the continent.)

The agency classifies deaths into three broad groups. Group I are communicable, maternal, newborn and nutritional conditions; Group II are noncommunicable – or chronic – diseases and Group III are caused by injuries.



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