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There are two major ways to collect the number of deaths in an emergency-affected population:

  • Count deaths prospectively by implementing a surveillance system to count deaths as they occur.
  • Count deaths retrospectively which have occurred in the recent past during a cross-sectional survey.

Prospective death surveillance is preferable because it can give you more up-to-date counts of deaths and the ability to continually monitor trends in mortality rates. Only if prospective death surveillance is not feasible, or if there are serious doubts about the completeness or accuracy of prospective death surveillance, should a survey be done to measure mortality rates.