Armed conflict is a major cause of injury and death worldwide, but we need much better methods of quantification before we can accurately assess its effect
Armed conflict between warring states and groups within states have been major causes of ill health and mortality for most of human history. Conflict obviously causes deaths and injuries on the battlefield, but also health consequences from the displacement of populations, the breakdown of health and social services, and the heightened risk of disease transmission. Despite the size of the health consequences, military conflict has not received the same attention from public health research and policy as many other causes of illness and death. In contrast, political scientists have long studied the causes of war but have primarily been interested in the decision of elite groups to go to war, not in human death and misery.
We review the limited knowledge on the health consequences of conflict, suggest ways to improve measurement, and discuss the potential for risk assessment and for preventing and ameliorating the consequences of conflict.
- Conflict related death and injury are major contributors to the global burden of disease
- Information systems break down during conflict, leading to great uncertainty in the magnitude of mortality and disability
- The World Health Survey may provide a reliable and valid basis for assessing conflict related mortality and disability
- Forecasting models may provide a plausible basis for assessing risk of conflict and thus prevention
- Improved collaboration between political scientists and experts in public health would benefit measurement, prediction, and prevention of conflict related death