Peacetime Surveys Estimate War Deaths Over 50 Years

Over 5 million people have died in 13 countries from Bosnia to Vietnam

FRIDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- Using data on sibling deaths reported after the end of conflict, over 5 million people died due to war injuries in 13 countries during the period from 1955 to 2002, a far higher estimate than that obtained through eyewitnesses and media reports, according to a report published online June 19 in BMJ Online First.

Ziad Obermeyer, and colleagues from the University of Washington in Seattle, estimated war deaths using retrospective data from the World Health Organization's 2002-2003 world health surveys of 13 countries, from Bosnia to Vietnam. The surveys asked one respondent per household about sibling deaths, including whether they resulted from war injuries.

The researchers estimated that there have been 5.4 million violent war deaths since 1955, ranging from 7,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo to 3.8 million in Vietnam. From 1995 to 2002, they estimated that these countries had 36,000 war deaths per year, a figure three times higher than had been estimated from passive surveillance methods such as media and eyewitness reports and government data.

"The method pioneered by Obermeyer and colleagues is promising," Richard Garfield, from Columbia University in New York City, writes in an accompanying editorial. "When stability returns to current or recent hotspots where epidemiological study is difficult -- such as Somalia, southern Sudan and Iraq -- we may yet be able to count the lives and deaths of these people."

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