WHO study cites whopping Iraqi death toll since 2003

Alexandra Sandels
3 Min Read

GENEVA/BAGHDAD: A joint new study conducted by the Iraqi government and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 151,000 Iraqis died from violence in their country between March 2003 and June 2006.

This makes violence the leading cause of death for adult Iraqi men. The findings are part of a larger survey conducted on general family health in Iraq, intended to help the government develop and maintain health policies.

The report claims that approximately 128 Iraqis died every day of violent causes in the first year following the US-invasion compared to 115 in the second year and 126 in the third year. More than half of the deaths took place in or around the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, cites a death toll several times higher than that of other Iraqi NGOs.

“The survey estimate is three times higher than the death toll detected through careful screening of media reports by the Iraq Body Count project and about four times lower than a smaller-scale household survey conducted earlier in 2006, said Naeema Al Gasseer, WHO representative to Iraq.

The research behind the project is comprised of interviews conducted in more than 9,300 households in over 1,000 neighborhood communities around Iraq. However, due to the country’s grave security situation, WHO researchers reiterate that as many as 223,000 people could have died in the violence.

“Assessment of the death toll in conflict situations is extremely difficult and household survey results have to be interpreted with caution, argued Mohamed Ali, co-author of the study and a WHO statistician. “However, in the absence of comprehensive death registration and hospital reporting, household surveys are the best we can do.

The Iraqi Minister of Health Salih Mahdi highlighted that researchers were unable to conduct their work in certain areas due to “high levels of insecurity.

Mahdi also pointed out that many people move residence during conflicts.”These factors were taken into account in the analysis as they may affect the accuracy of the survey work. Nonetheless, the survey results indicate a massive death toll since the beginning of the conflict, continued Mahdi.

On a related topic, the Iraq Family Health Survey performed research on other health issues of Iraqis, including pregnancy history, chronic illnesses, smoking habits, and domestic violence.

According to the organization’s research, only 57 percent of the Iraqi women who participated in the survey had knowledge of the existence of AIDS, compared to 97 percent in Jordan and 84 percent in Egypt.

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