World Health Organization Classifications in the African region

Newsletter of the WHO Family of International Classifications (WHO-FIC) Collaborating Centre for the Africa region

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No: 4, 2020


Improving cause of death reporting in South Africa: New free online course launched

Although South Africa has a well-established Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) System, the quality of mortality statistics obtained from the death notification forms completed by medical doctors is still suboptimal. 


As part of efforts to further strengthen the CRVS system, we sought to address the lack of training of medical students and doctors on proper certification of cause of death by developing a free online training course based on the ICD principles of identifying the underlying cause of death. We are happy to report that the online training tool has now been completed and was recently launched. 


The platform enables self-learning on how to correctly complete a death certificate, understanding the importance of correct medical certification of cause of death, and role of doctors in producing reliable cause of death statistics. Assessments linked to Continuing Education Units are also available. Enhancements have been made to the tool following user experience and usability evaluation. 


The core element of the training is centred around the International Medical Certificate of Cause of Death Form. Case scenarios are presented throughout the training and each module is followed with a self-assessment to consolidate the information that has been covered.


Once completed, the participant can register for a final assessment which draws on a bank of questions to assess competency around correct completion of the cause of death form. 


The training is delivered on a platform that is compatible with computers, tablets and mobile phones. Furthermore, this platform includes voice-over recordings and downloadable reading materials. 


The design of the training platform allows for easy modification of the initial English language South African version to reflect other contexts, and for delivery in other languages. 


The training programme has resulted from a study supported in part by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the terms of Cooperative Agreement SAMRC-CDC CoAG 1U2GGH01150. It has also been supported by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative through the CDC Foundation Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Project, and the South African Medical Research Council. The development of the platform was done by the Centre for Community Technologies at Nelson Mandela University.


A dissemination strategy involving government, professional bodies and academic institutions is currently being developed to ensure optimal use of the tool so that it may influence the quality of the national cause of death statistics. 


For more information:




ICD coding for COVID-19

The WHO provided some recommendations and guidance to countries on ICD coding of COVID-19, which was declared a pandemic in March 2020. This resulted in updates of the Tabular List and the Alphabetical List of ICD-10, and the ICD-11 browser, to include new ICD codes for COVID-19.





Download annual report 2020

Colleagues associated with the WHO FIC collaborating centre in South Africa are continuing their activities in support of the development and maintenance of the WHO-FIC internationally. We collaborated in the WHO-FIC network structures in the development, implementation and use of ICD, ICHI and ICF in Africa and in support of strengthening civil registration and vital statistics in the WHO African region.


  • Download a poster of the Collaborating Centre’s 2020 annual report to the WHO-FIC network.




ICF initiatives

Prof Soraya Maart and Dr Stefanus Snyman of the WHO-FIC Collaborating Centre in Africa participated in the ICF Update process during the past year, preparing for the launch of ICF 2020. Dr Snyman also served on the Board of and helped to organise the 6th International Symposium: ICF Education (virtual). 


The website, managed by the WHO-FIC Collaborating Centre in Africa, was updated by Nelson Mandela University, with funding from the WHO-FIC Collaborating Centre in the Netherlands.


As part of the ICanFunction mHealth Solution (mICF), a project was launched to gather data on persons reversing their Type 2 Diabetes. Data scientists are busy experimenting how to visualise the ICF-related data on small screens. 


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICF Facilitator Course was not presented this year. We are planning a course in 2021. Interested persons can contact




ICD-11 implementation update

As a component of the programme for strengthening CRVS (civil registration and vital statistics) in the Region, WHO-AFRO has initiated a series of training programmes and consultations focussed on Medical Certification of Cause of Death (MCCOD), Verbal Autopsy (VA) and accurate coding of mortality and morbidity using ICD-11. 


Virtual training programmes presented online by WHO-AFRO and implementing partners during November 2020 attracted approximately 500 participants from 41 countries over two phases: 02 -04 November (English and French/Portuguese streams) and 09 -11 November (Portuguese/French and English streams). Prof Debbie Bradshaw, and Ds Toyin Awotiwon and Lyn Hanmer were among the facilitators for these training events. 


Regional consultations on implementation of MCOD, VA and Cause of Death coding at national level are planned for early 2021. 


Links to a recording of this Regional training series on MCCOD, VA, and morbidity and mortality coding using ICD-11, are as follows:


  • Day 1: Access Passcode: +L8J1G.B
  • Day 2: Access Passcode: 2@+JEHQ0
  • Day 3: Access Passcode: %kXh8F$=


Summary of WHO-FIC 2020 meetings

The annual meeting of the WHO Family of International Classifications Network took place from 19-23 October 2020. Due to the continuing impacts of COVID-19, the decision was taken to hold this year’s meeting virtually, with the theme “Valid Health Information in the Digital Era”. 


  • Click here for our summary of these meetings. 
  • Click here to download all the posters presented at the meeting. 



The WHO Family of International Classifications (WHO-FIC) is pivotal in delivering Universal Health Coverage in the African region. These classifications are the

  • International Classification for Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD)
  • International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF)
  • International Classification of Health Interventions (ICHI).

The WHO-FIC Collaborating Centre for the African region is hosted by the South African Medical Research Council in Cape Town, South Africa. The Centre supports the development, implementation and maintenance of the WHO-FIC across the region, and through the global WHO-FIC Network.

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