UN: 9 January 2008 – Some 151,000 Iraqis died from violence between March 2003 – start of the United States-led invasion – and June 2006, according to a large national household survey conducted by the Iraqi Government and the United Nations World health Organization (WHO).
“Our survey estimate is three times higher that 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,” WHO country representative Naeema Al Gasseer said.
Study co-author Mohamed Ali, a WHO statistician, noted that death toll assessments in conflicts are extremely difficult and survey results have to be interpreted with caution. “However, in the absence of comprehensive death registration and hospital reporting, household surveys are the best we can do,” he said.
The findings, published today on the web site of the New England Journal of Medicine, are based on information collected in a wider survey of family health in Iraq, designed to help the Government develop health polices and services. They are based on interviews with 9,345 households in nearly 1,000 neighbourhoods and villages across the country.
Despite the large study, uncertainty inherent in such estimates led researchers to conclude that the toll lies between 104,000 and 223,000. The study found that violence became the leading cause of death for adults after March 2003. On average 128 Iraqis per day died of violent causes in the first year following the invasion, falling to 115 per day in the second year of the study and rising again to 126 per day in the third year, with more than half of the deaths occurring in Baghdad.
The survey also tracked health indicators such as pregnancy history, mental health status, chronic illness, smoking habits, sexually transmitted infections, domestic violence and health-care spending patterns.
A notable finding was the worrying low rate – 57 per cent – of women who said they had heard of AIDS. That compares with 84 per cent in Turkey and Egypt, 91 per cent in Morocco, and 97 per cent in Jordan.
The latest study’s findings are published on the website of the New England Journal of Medicine.