News and opinions on situation in Iraq
29/10/04 New Report Shows Nearly 100,000 Iraqi War Deaths in Survey …
 
October 28, 2004

Iraqi Civilian Deaths Increase Dramatically After Invasion

Civilian deaths have risen dramatically in Iraq since the country was invaded in March 2003, according to a survey conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Columbia University School of Nursing and Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. The researchers found that the majority of deaths were attributed to violence, which were primarily the result of military actions by Coalition forces. Most of those killed by Coalition forces were women and children. However, the researchers stressed that they found no evidence of improper conduct by the Coalition soldiers.

The survey is the first countrywide attempt to calculate the number of civilian deaths in Iraq since the war began. The United States military does not keep records on civilian deaths and record keeping by the Iraq Ministry of Health is limited. The study is published in the October 29, 2004, online edition of The Lancet.

“Our findings need to be independently verified with a larger sample group. However, I think our survey demonstrates the importance of collecting civilian casualty information during a war and that it can be done,” said lead author Les Roberts, PhD, an associate with the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for International Emergency, Disaster and Refugee Studies.

The researchers conducted their survey in September 2004. They randomly selected 33 neighborhoods of 30 homes from across Iraq and interviewed the residents about the number and ages of the people living in each home. Over 7,800 Iraqis were included. Residents were questioned about the number of births and deaths that occurred in the household since January 2002. Information was also collected about the causes and circumstances of each death. When possible, the deaths were verified with a death certificate or other documentation.

The researchers compared the mortality rate among civilians in Iraq during the 14.6 months prior to the March 2003 invasion with the 17.8 month period following the invasion. The sample group reported 46 deaths prior to the March 2003 and 142 deaths following the invasion. The results were calculated twice, both with and without information from the city of Falluja. The researchers felt the excessive violence from combat in Falluja could skew the overall mortality rates. Excluding information from Falluja, they estimate that 100,000 more Iraqis died than would have been expected had the invasion not occurred. Eighty-four percent of the deaths were reported to be caused by the actions of Coalition forces and 95 percent of those deaths were due to air strikes and artillery.

“There is a real necessity for accurate monitoring of civilian deaths during combat situations. Otherwise it is impossible to know the extent of the problems civilians may be facing or how to protect them,” explained study co-author Gilbert Burnham, MD, associate professor of International Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Center for International, Disaster and Refugee Studies.

“Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey” was written by Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi and Gilbert Burnham. Roberts and Burham are with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Lafta and Khudhairi are with the College of Medicine at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. Garfield is with the Columbia University School of Nursing.

The study was funded by the Center for International Emergency, Disaster and Refugee Studies at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Small Arms Survey in Geneva, Switzerland.

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.

Study: 100,000 Excess Civilian Iraqi Deaths Since War

Thu Oct 28, 2:57 PM ET

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in violence since the U.S.-led invasion last year, American public health experts have calculated in a report that estimates there were 100,000 “excess deaths” in 18 months.  

The rise in the death rate was mainly due to violence and much of it was caused by U.S. air strikes on towns and cities.

“Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq (newsweb sites),” said Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in a report published online by The Lancet medical journal.

“The use of air power in areas with lots of civilians appears to be killing a lot of women and children,” Roberts told Reuters.

The report came just days before the U.S. presidential election in which the Iraq war has been a major issue.

Mortality was already high in Iraq before the war because of United Nations (newsweb sites) sanctions blocking food and medical imports but the researchers described what they found as shocking.

The new figures are based on surveys done by the researchers in Iraq in September 2004. They compared Iraqi deaths during 14.6 months before the invasion in March 2003 and the 17.8 months after it by conducting household surveys in randomly selected neighborhoods.

Previous estimates based on think tank and media sources put the Iraqi civilian death toll at up to 16,053 and military fatalities as high as 6,370.

By comparison about 849 U.S. military were killed in combat or attacks and another 258 died in accidents or incidents not related to fighting, according to the Pentagon (newsweb sites).

VERY BAD FOR IRAQI CIVILIANS

The researchers blamed air strikes for many of the deaths.

“What we have evidence of is the use of air power in populated urban areas and the bad consequences of it,” Roberts said.

Gilbert Burnham, who collaborated on the research, said U.S. military action in Iraq was “very bad for Iraqi civilians.”

“We were not expecting the level of deaths from violence that we found in this study and we hope this will lead to some serious discussions of how military and political aims can be achieved in a way that is not so detrimental to civilians populations,” he told Reuters in an interview.

The researchers did 33 cluster surveys of 30 households each, recording the date, circumstances and cause of deaths.

They found that the risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher than before the war.

Before the war the major causes of death were heart attacks, chronic disorders and accidents. That changed after the war.

Two-thirds of violent deaths in the study were reported in Falluja, the insurgent held city 50 km (32 miles) west of Baghdad which had been repeatedly hit by U.S. air strikes.

“Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce non-combatant deaths from air strikes,” Roberts added in the study.

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, said the research which was submitted to the journal earlier this month had been peer-reviewed, edited and fast-tracked for publication because of its importance in the evolving security situation in Iraq.

“But these findings also raise questions for those far removed from Iraq — in the governments of the countries responsible for launching a pre-emptive war,” Horton said in an editorial.

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