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Wednesday, 10 August 2011

War and Peace - as a public health issue

Rioting in the streets in England,  protestors killed in Syria, the Libyan crisis, Afghanistan conflicts -  all current conflicts with the potential for significant numbers of deaths or injured. Global conflict is a public health problem.
It is difficult to get good statistics where governments are engaged in conflicts.  Numbers of deaths and injured are conveniently underestimated by one side, and overestimated by the other.   Discrepancies of the order of an order of magnitude are not uncommon. Injury statistics are even more difficult to obtain in areas of active conflict.
In England, there are at least 4 related deaths (including the initial event) and 125 injuries in the past 5 days.  Reports of up to 2000 dead in Syria;  6,000-30,000 in Libya; about 10,000 in Afghanistan; and estimates from Iraq vary from 100,000 to 1 Million Iraqi body count in a nice Wikipedia item on how statistics on the same subject can be so different.
There is an Oslo peace institute that tries to track the impact of global conflict.  The most recent article estimates about 10 Million battle related deaths since WW2 Global conflict related deaths 1940's-2005 .  More importantly though are the estimates of increased mortality due to conflict that are not directly attributed to battle with some conflicts having only a few percent of all deaths related to the battlefield.   Check the home institutes website and explore the data set at http://www.prio.no/CSCW/ 
About 55 Million people die each year, and while it is tough to get a really good fix on the number of conflict related deaths, it is likely in the 300,000 range for just battle related deaths and not unreasonably 10 times this for non-battle related deaths due to conflicts.  The categorization is not enough to make the world’s top ten list of causes of death Top 10 causes of death by income grouping of countries , however it should be enough to receive more concerted attention at the root causes of global conflict.
Most conflicts result from the inequitable distribution of resources.  Peace depends on a civil society in its most basic form.

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