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Addressing discrepancies in estimates of road traffic deaths and injuries in Ethiopia


Background There are large discrepancies between official statistics of traffic injuries in African countries and estimates from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study and WHO’s Global Status Reports on Road Safety (GSRRS). We sought to assess the magnitude of the discrepancy in Ethiopia, its implications and how it can be addressed.

Methods We systematically searched for nationally representative epidemiological data sources for road traffic injuries and vehicle ownership in Ethiopia and compared estimates with those from GBD and GSRRS.

Findings GBD and GSRRS estimates vary substantially across revisions and across projects. GSRRS-2018 estimates of deaths (27 326 in 2016) are more than three times GBD-2019 estimates (8718), and these estimates have non-overlapping uncertainty ranges. GSRRS estimates align well with the 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS-2016; 27 838 deaths, 95th CI: 15 938 to 39 738). Official statistics are much lower (5118 deaths in 2018) than all estimates. GBD-2019 estimates of serious non-fatal injuries are consistent with DHS-2016 estimates (106 050 injuries, 95th CI: 81 728 to 130 372) and older estimates from the 2003 World Health Survey. Data from five surveys confirm that vehicle ownership levels in Ethiopia are much lower than in other countries in the region.

Interpretation Inclusion of data from national health surveys in GBD and GSRRS can help reduce discrepancies in estimates of deaths and support their use in highlighting under-reporting in official statistics and advocating for better prioritisation of road safety in the national policy agenda. GBD methods for estimating serious non-fatal injuries should be strengthened to allow monitoring progress towards Sustainable Development Goal target 3.6.

  • Epidemiology
  • Low-Middle Income Country
  • Public Health

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. DHS data analysed in this manuscript are available to researchers via request from USAID’s DHS Program. WHS data are available via request from the WHO. GBD estimates are available to the public from the IHME’s Global Health Data Exchange (GHDx) website.

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